UNH athletic nutritionist Sarah Walker McLaughlin was the driving force behind what is now known as the Fueling Station, which is located just beyond the front doors of the field house and in front of the basketball court entrance.
No matter the name, be it the “Fuel Zone” at Ohio State University or “Fuel Bar” at the University of Florida, colleges with Division 1 sports teams around the country are investing in providing student athletes with nutritious snacks to help maintain their energy throughout busy days.
UNH athletic director Marty Scarano was the one who approached Walker McLaughlin about the idea of starting a fuel station.
Walker McLaughlin said she took on the project because of the “value to the students who have class after practice.”
UNH athletes are at the field house between three to five hours a day, and sometimes more, including pre-workout, practice time, post-workout recovery and lift time. Most of the time, nutrition is the last thing an athlete has time to think about, but also one of the things he or she needs the most.
Walker McLaughlin and Scarano had to construct the Fueling Station initiative from scratch. First, they came up with a budget of about 50 cents per athlete per day. From there they decided on what ingredients and products to use and who would work the station.
Nutrition majors now voluntarily work the Fueling Station, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trail mix, along with buying cheaper products like oranges, apples, bananas and granola bars that are simple and nutritious.
“The best part of the program is that it doesn’t discriminate on whether or not an athlete is on scholarship,” said Michelle Bronner, the senior associate athletic director of compliance at UNH. “It still meets everyone’s needs on such a small budget,” she said.
When asked about any restrictions she comes across, Walker McLaughlin immediately mentioned the budget. While some schools work on fuel station budgets exceeding $100,000, UNH has only a fraction of that.
Any initial worries about the Fueling Station not being successful were soon relieved. After just a couple tweets were sent out announcing its launch, the station gained more publicity and soon became a major success. Due to the high traffic the station began generating, the budget per athlete was raised to a dollar per day.
Walker McLaughlin’s hope for the future is for the station to get sponsored. With a sponsorship, UNH Athletic Nutrition would be able to bring in better products and more options.
With energy and enthusiasm, Walker McLaughlin said her favorite part of her job is feeding the athletes because she finds incredible satisfaction from it.
Senior football player Daberechi Ukwuani said the Fueling Station “kept [him] from starving” during his last season, which included three-a-day practices. Although Walker McLaughlin said the station shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement, it has certainly done its job in assisting athletes during active days around campus.