New program to help Plum students fuel up for after-school activities

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Nathan Turchick got into the habit of bringing a protein bar and water to school to energize him for football practice.

“Last year I was done eating (lunch) at 11 (a.m.),” said Turchick, 16, who will be a junior this year.

Turchick can leave the food at home and turn to the high school cafeteria after classes for healthy foods before practice this year.

The Plum School District food service and nutrition department is starting the “Afterschool Fuel” program. Students will be given time after classes — from 2:20 to 2:45 p.m. — to purchase healthy snack items, said Maryann Lazzaro, the district's food supervisor.

The items will range in price from 50 cents to $1.50. Lazzaro said students can use cash or their lunch accounts to buy foods including yogurt, fruit cups, muffins, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without crusts and Pop Tarts as well as water, fruit juice, chocolate milk and Gatorade. Fruits and vegetables also will be available.

“Unless they pack something in the morning, kids are going (to after-school practices and activities) without any fuel,” said Lazzaro who also is a registered dietitian. “For athletes to perform, they have to take in enough calories and nutrients.”

“I loved the idea,” said high school Principal Ryan Kociela. “Some of the younger students eat lunch at 10 a.m.”

Lazzaro said the drinks contain electrolytes and minerals while the food choices have carbohydrates, fiber, protein, calcium, vitamins and calories.

Lazzaro emphasized that the menu of items doesn't include foods such as candy bars, chips and crackers.

“We want to give them good nutrition to fuel their bodies,” Lazzaro said.

Sharon Strohm, manager of clinical nutrition and diabetes education at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said eating healthy foods before practice helps improve performance and can decrease injuries.

“I applaud (Plum School District's) solution,” said Strohm who also is a registered dietitian. “It will really fill a void.”

Assistant athletic Director Jeff Wolfe said the boost from the food available after school also will help students who go to work or other activities after sports practice.

“What they are selling is good for (the students),” Wolfe said. “Our people are professionals.”

Wil Fuhrer, 16, a junior who plays football, looks forward to trying the different food selections.

“I won't worry about packing,” Fuhrer said.

“We don't want kids skipping meals and being ravenous,” Lazzaro said. “It is the right thing to do for kids.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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