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Fresh First Serves Healthy Food for All

At the age of 32, Mary Siragusa got sick.

Her doctors recommended she see a specialist immediately. Already a believer in the power of whole foods -- as a teenager, she served sprouted grain sandwiches to lifeguards out of a juice bar in North Miami Beach -- Siragusa decided to try improving her health on her own terms. She walked out of the doctor's office, picked up an Acme juicer, and started her first juice cleanse.

Though she prefers not to speak about her previous ailments in detail, she claims it worked; she immediately felt better and has been trying to help others manage their health and well-being through whole foods ever since.

Along with her daughter Francesca, who holds a certificate in holistic nutrition from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Siragusa started an at-home meal plan four years ago. The mother/daughter team prepared gluten-free meals with some raw options based off the Hippocrates Institute protocol for at-home customers, as well as patients at local health and wellness centers. The Hippocrates Institute in West Palm Beach is a world-recognized health and wellness institute that touts the benefits of a vegan diet rich in living enzymes.

Six months ago, the pair opened Fresh First on 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale, the first place in South Florida to earn the title of "Great Kitchen" by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).

It's a safe haven for anyone with dietary issues or allergies; everything is entirely gluten-, corn-, and peanut-free, with a large selection of raw, vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian (fish and poultry), dairy-free, and ethically conscious options.

Everything is made in-house; including fresh-pressed juices, salad dressings, vegan cookies, special-order birthday cakes, and the constantly changing quinoa cupcakes prepared with homemade seasonal jam and goat cheese frosting.

To ensure everyone onsite is knowledgeable about gluten intolerances and celiac disease, each employee is required to sit through NFCA training. The restaurant is so stringently gluten-free that staff members are not permitted to bring their own food on the premises for fear of cross-contamination.

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Sara Ventiera

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