Sports / Orthopedic

Student-Athlete Pantry Helps Fill Nutritional Needs

Apr 25 2023

Over time Brad Fraser, one of our athletic trainers, realized that some of the student-athletes he looks after at Fairfield City Schools had nutrition issues stemming from either food insecurity or an improper understanding of what makes a healthy diet.

Brad, along with fellow athletic trainers, Chris Kunkel and Ashli Golic, as well as team physician and orthopedic surgeon Mahmoud Almasri, MD, together care for roughly 1,000 student-athletes in grades nine through 12.

“At times, we’d give our own snacks to kids who hadn’t eaten all day and we paid out-of-pocket to keep healthy snacks in the training room for kids experiencing electrolyte imbalances,” Brad explains.

The issue really hit home when the team took time to track one athlete’s food intake.

“We documented what a star player ate over a two-week period. It was half the recommended calories for kids his age,” Brad shares. “Lack of proper nutrition can lead to a lower level of performance, escalate to cramping and not being able to compete, and, in extreme cases, cause hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition in which the body’s sodium level drops below normal.”

Some students on the free and reduced lunch programs lacked access to healthy snacks. Others simply don’t know how to eat well, despite hearing directly from nutritionists on the difference good nutrition can make to a player’s performance when they participate in sports.

“We explained this issue we were having with the star player during our monthly meeting with the athletic director,” Brad recalls. “He had seen a pantry at schools in the past that offered free access to as much food as the athletes needed, as well as someone to guide the students in how to fuel. He thought it was something we could do at Fairfield City Schools.”

The project took off when the athletic director asked the parent boosters for money to get the pantry off the ground, and Brad mentioned it during a sales meeting with Rachel Trotta, business development director of Hoist Premium Hydration.

“Rachel has a background in nutrition and dietetics, and she asked for a list of approved items because she wanted to donate personally,” Brad says. “Chris got in touch with Kylie Yanow, one of Mercy Health’s sports nutritionists, for a list of recommendations. Rachel brought $2,000 worth of groceries collected personally through her network. The project went from planning to stocked in days and the Student-Athlete Pantry launched on Nov. 30 2022.”

The Student-Athlete Pantry is intended to meet nutritional needs to help individual student-athletes perform their best and not provide an afternoon team snack. The school’s coaches are looking to see if some students show patterns of need so our team and the athletic director can work to find a more substantial solution for them.

Student-athletes who need a healthy snack don’t face questions or judgement when they visit the pantry, which has enough stock to last until spring and nearly $1,000 remaining in the budget for future purchases.

To ensure they keep the pantry running, Brad and his team are working to line up area businesses for ongoing support, while boosters are encouraging donations of money and appropriate snacks, such as:

  • Fruit leathers or dried fruit
  • Fruit pouches
  • Nuts (single-serve packets)
  • Trail mix
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers (gluten free)
  • Rice cakes
  • Beef jerky
  • Protein bars
  • Dried veggie chips

“We are counting on community support until we get sponsors,” Brad calls out.

The Boosters’ Super Fan Jim Fund is accepting monetary donations for the pantry.

And for more information or to donate food items, please contact Brad Fraser at 513-942-2999, ext. 2570 or

Learn about the sports medicine and orthopedic services we provide at Mercy Health.

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