Team

Solid Starts founder Jenny Best with her family in a bathtub eating spaghetti

Jenny Best, founder & ceo

A mom of three, including twin toddlers, Jenny is a baby-led weaning expert and food and farming enthusiast on a mission to make it easier for parents to introduce real food to their babies.

Prior to launching Solid Starts, Jenny led global communications at One Acre Fund and Slow Food USA and served many years in the NYC government. Before that she was a professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet. Jenny lives in Brooklyn, where she currently neglects 15 edible plants on her rooftop.

Dr. Rachel Ruiz, pediatrician & gastroenterologist

Dr. Ruiz is a mom of two, a board-certified general pediatrician, and a pediatric gastroenterologist. She completed her undergraduate at Dartmouth College, doctorate of medicine and pediatrics residency at Vanderbilt University, and pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at Stanford University. Dr. Ruiz is an attending pediatric gastroenterologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and an affiliated clinical instructor of pediatric gastroenterology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. She treats a wide range of children suffering from constipation, abdominal pain, swallowing difficulties, inadequate weight gain, inflammatory bowel disease, fatty liver and other liver diseases, and Celiac disease. Dr. Ruiz resides in the Bay Area with her family. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, traveling, getting a good workout when she can, and, of course, eating!

Dr. Sakina Shikari Bajowala, pediatrician & allergist/immunologist

Dr. Bajowala is a mother of two and a board-certified adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist with a passion for patient education and advocacy. She specializes in the evaluation and management of food allergy, and is a best-selling author on the topic. In her private allergy practice, she helps her young patients overcome food allergies through precision-focused sublingual and oral immunotherapy. Outside of medicine, Dr. Bajowala enjoys sampling a variety of cuisines during her international travels, cultivating her garden, cooking with her family, and writing.

Kim Grenawitzke, occupational therapist headshot

Kim Grenawitzke, pediatric occupational therapist and swallowing specialist

Specializing in infant and child feeding, eating, and swallowing, Kim has spent the majority of her career in pediatric acute care at some of the largest children’s hospitals on the west coast, focusing specifically on neonatal (NICU) feeding and swallowing, breastfeeding with high-risk infants, and infant/pediatric cardiac rehabilitation. In addition to her hospital-based work, Kim counsels families struggling with breastfeeding, transitioning to solids, selective/picky eating, tube weaning, and oral motor/chewing. Kim is mom to Maeve and enjoys cooking with her husband, Will, and chasing after her Golden Retriever, Bailey. 

Kary Rappaport, pediatric occupational therapist and swallowing specialist

Kary specializes in family mealtime dynamics and eating issues across the spectrum from breast and bottle feeding challenges and picky eating, to dysphagia, tube feeding, and complex food refusal.  Kary has extensive, wide-ranging work experience from NICU to in-home settings, supporting families and children. She currently works in primary care with high risk families to identify and treat developmental, behavioral, and feeding related issues.  Kary is a mom of two, specializing in tantrum resolution, carseat gymnastics, and stain removal.  

K. Tatiana Maldonado, speech-language pathologist & certified lactation education counselor

Tatiana is a Spanish-English Bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist and Certified Lactation Education Counselor. She specializes in respiration and feeding/swallowing disorders and finds the intersection of the two of particular interest. Tatiana has extensive hospital-based experience ranging from the NICU to pediatric skilled nursing facilities. She provides in-home support to children and families in the areas of early language acquisition, transitioning to solids, and feeding/swallowing with tracheostomies and ventilators. Her favorite workdays involve messy food play and providing kiddos with large pieces of food. When she’s not working, you can find Tatiana running all of the miles or eating all of the food; she is both an ultra-runner and a competitive eater.  

Alexia Derma Salazar, speech-language pathologist

Alexia is a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist with a special interest in feeding and swallowing. She has experience in outpatient, school, and home health settings, but strongly believes a healthy and happy relationship with food is developed at home with small, daily steps. Alexia supports families and children struggling with complex language disorders, feeding challenges such as picky eating and tube weaning, and oral motor delays. Alexia loves calm days at home with her husband Caleb, baby Nico, and their American bully Pipa. She also enjoys knitting, lifting weights, spicy food, and reading as much as possible.

Nekole Eaton, pediatric occupational therapist, conscious parenting coach & certified lactation counselor

Nekole supports children as a pediatric occupational therapist. She’s completed advanced training for feeding and swallowing and enjoys helping children with physical disabilities learn to feed while supporting families throughout the process. Nekole provides online education for mothers and families seeking support with breastfeeding and other challenges related to child development. She enjoys in-home dance parties with her husband and two kiddos, Kai and Nya, and discovering hidden gems of Southern California with her family.

Marisa Suarez, occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, certified lactation education counselor

As an occupational therapist, Marisa holds advanced certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing. With a background in psychiatry and behavioral management, she is passionate about addressing the anxiety commonly felt with feeding—from postpartum breast- and bottle-feeding to complex family mealtime dynamics. Marisa is in the thick of finger foods with identical twin infants Savanna and Juliana, and toddler Benjamín. She enjoys cooking family meals with her dietitian husband, Josh, and relies heavily on her clean-up pup Charlie.

Jamie Truppi, nutritionist

A mother of two blossoming children and a baby-led weaning pioneer, Jamie focuses on family nutrition and whole food experiences. She holds a Master of Science & Nutrition in Integrative Health from Maryland University of Integrative Health, and holds a post-graduate board certification as a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Jamie resides in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she helped develop Idaho’s first state-funded Farm to Early Care & Education pilot program.

Venus Kalami, pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist

Inspired by her mother’s work serving nutritionally vulnerable mothers and infants, Venus is dedicated to bridging nutritional inequities in her work. As a pediatric dietitian in gastroenterology, she works with kiddos with celiac and inflammatory bowel diseases, food allergies, picky eating, and more, while exploring research and program development. Venus completed her Registered Dietitian training at Stanford Medicine and her Masters in Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Off the clock, she practices her polyglot skills, sings jazz, and subjects her husband to unconventional culinary creations.

headshot of Andrea Gilbaugh for Solid Starts

Andrea Gilbaugh, pediatric registered dietitian

Andrea has more than a decade of experience as a Certified Nutrition Support specialist and pediatric dietitian working in the hospital and clinic setting. Specialties include a wide range of gastroenterology disorders as well as experience in picky eating, food allergies, intolerances, and other nutrition issues. Andrea is thankful her parents were interested in cooking and nutrition, helping her find joy not only in a homemade chocolate chip cookie but bitter arugula and earthy steamed beets.  Andrea hopes to inspire a happy relationship with many types of food for her own daughter. 

Jennifer Min headshot

Jennifer H. Min, pediatric nurse practitioner/nurse researcher

Jenny is a board certified primary care pediatric nurse practitioner, currently working towards her doctorate degree in nursing at University of California San Francisco. Her research passion is working with children and families living with chronic conditions (such as type 1 diabetes and food allergy) to identify novel methods to help promote successful self-management behaviors to improve health outcomes. One year ago, Jenny became a mother of a beautiful baby girl who inspired her to dig deeper into the world of baby-led weaning, and introducing safe and healthy solids in an evidence-based manner.  

Natalia Stasenko, pediatric registered dietitian

Natalia is a pediatric dietitian and mother of three with a Masters Degree in Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She helps families raise healthy eaters, start solids with their babies, resolve picky eating, and enjoy family meals in simple and delicious ways. Natalia is the co-author of Real Baby Food and Baby Led Feeding cookbooks, has worked as a consulting dietitian for Head Start, and developed professional training modules for health professionals. Natalia lives in the UK where she runs a private consultancy.

Emily Cerda, certified nutrition specialist & educator

Emily is a mother of two with a passion for pediatric nutrition. She holds an MS in Nutrition & Integrative Health from Maryland University of Integrative Health and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Since her first child was diagnosed with behavioral issues and severe food allergies at the age of 6, Emily now helps children, adolescents, and their parents explore the powerful influence of food on mood and behavior. She also works as an educator and clinical supervisor for postgraduates pursuing their CNS certification. When not working or homeschooling her kids, Emily enjoys gardening, long hikes with her howly-head beagle, and painting rocks to hide in her community.

Corina Aycinena Marcos, public health and clinical nutritionist

Corina is a mother of four girls under 5 and a clinical nutritionist focused on pediatric nutrition. Originally from Guatemala, Corina completed her nutritionist training at Cornell University and her dietetics and postgraduate degrees at Columbia University, where she also worked as a research coordinator in public health and nutrition-related cancer prevention. Corina currently lives in Dallas where she’s raising happy eaters with a joyful relationship to food.

Dairian Roberts, lactation consultant

Dairian is an occupational therapist and IBCLC specializing in infant feeding and development. She is passionate about community care and has partnered with pediatrician and midwifery offices to provide holistic care to underserved and underrepresented families. Dairian is a mom of two and enjoys making hair and skin products from scratch, yoga, and swimming. 

Katja Jylkka, First Foods® database manager

Katja brings expertise in interdisciplinary research, writing, and editing to wrangle the First Foods® database. She is passionate about the world’s foods—where they come from and how they bring us together—and ensures that Solid Starts reflects the diversity of the world’s food, cooking, and cultures. As a writer and former academic with a Ph.D. in English from U.C. Davis, Katja brings more than a decade of research experience to the team. In her free time, she shares her love of cooking with her daughter, and enjoys reading, running, and trying to tire out her tireless dog.

Kate Lindquist, copywriter and recipe developer

Kate is guided by the belief that every family deserves access to fruits, vegetables, and whole foods that nourish the soul and the planet. She brings her passion for biodiversity, culture, and storytelling to Solid Starts, where she supports the team with documenting the joy of cooking and eating good food. When she’s not behind her laptop or camera, she can be found standing at her kitchen island, cooking with the flowers, herbs, and leafy greens that she grows in her backyard garden.

Sarah Kinzbach Williams, editor

As an editor and mom of one, Sarah spends her days wrangling wayward words and a busy toddler. She is a former magazine editor and advertising agency copywriter specializing in research-based editorial and ghostwriting. She’s passionate about the relationship between food and health, as well as food sustainability, accessibility, and biodiversity. Sarah lives in Upstate South Carolina with her husband, son, two cats, dog, and horse. 

Chelsea Synyahl-Gleisner, special assistant

Based in Arizona, Chelsea brings over a decade worth of experience working with small businesses, start-ups, and community-based organizations. She passionately advocates for food accessibility and the preservation of native foods and their recipes. Chelsea is a mother of one and currently obtaining a dual degree in Spanish and nutrition.  

Nikki Silvestri, diversity, equity & inclusion coach

Nikki Silvestri is the founder and CEO of Soil and Shadow, a coaching and consulting firm serving social and environmental entrepreneurs. A nationally-recognized thought leader, Nikki’s received numerous accolades for her work and was named among The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans.

As our DEI coach, Nikki is guiding conversations about this work in the field of baby food and child nutrition and is advising Solid Starts as it becomes a thought leader in this space.

Nikki has a master’s degree in African American Studies from UCLA. She lives in Oakland with her husband and son.

Lucy Andersen, graphic designer

Lucy is a freelance graphic designer specializing in brand identities, websites, and all types of print and digital design. Her clients range from boutique jewelry studios to global consulting firms.

When not designing things, Lucy can be found wandering around neighborhoods in Brooklyn and getting inspiration from vintage typography, architectural details, and random sidewalk ephemera.