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Best Wellness Concept: District creates performance packs for athletes

Best Wellness Concept: District creates performance packs for athletes

Each year Food Management honors operations for excellence and innovation in our Best Concepts awards program. Read more on this year’s winners.

Peak Performance Packs are boxes of food designed for the nutritional needs of student athletes in three areas: endurance, muscle-building and rapid recovery. Each pack contains a selection of foods designed to help meet that particular goal. 

They were developed by Wesley Delbridge, director of food and nutrition for the Chandler USD in Arizona and derived from his own experiences growing up as a student-athlete. 

“I remember playing these hard football games where it would be late at night and we were three hours away from home so the bus would take us to the nearest fast food place” he says. “Today, as a dietitian, I say, ‘Man, that’s the worst for a student-athlete and a kid!’”

He started researching and found there was still no alternative product that would help athletes with recovery or practice, so he decided to come up with something himself.

The result was Performance Packs, which not only come in three varieties to supplement three different kinds of athletic goals, but also with menu variety within each type.  

For example, the muscle-building Performance Pack includes entrée options ranging from a deli club sandwich on whole-wheat bread and tuna pack with whole-grain crackers to a turkey and Swiss wrap. Choices of sides include protein-rich items like a hard-boiled egg, string cheese, a low-sugar protein energy bar and a pack of almonds, walnuts or pecans. The beverage options include plain bottled water as well as electrolyte-rich sports drinks and protein-enhanced milk. Each Performance Pack also has fresh fruit included.

Packs focused on endurance include entrée choices like a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, homemade tuna with yogurt on whole-wheat bread or wrap, whole-grain bagel with sunflower butter with raisins and cold penne pasta and veggie salad. Sides range from a scratch-made whole-grain muffin to dried fruit and low-sugar granola bars.

Recovery-focused Performance Packs have selections like high-protein hummus and pita bread, low-fat cream cheese on whole-grain bagel, yogurt parfait with low-fat Greek yogurt and berries and granola and sides like sting cheese and dried fruit.

“They’re designed to be eaten 20 minutes to hour after working out so you can build up your glycogen stores again and let your body go into repair mode,” Delbridge explains.

Originally the Performance Packs were intended only for the afterschool period, but Delbridge changed his mind after noticing how many athletes were bringing food and drinks to school to supplement what they were getting in the cafeteria. 

“We had interviewed kids before the launch and found they were packing these huge lunches and carrying them around all day because they didn’t think what we were serving in the cafeteria met their needs,” he says.

The Performance Packs in all varieties are now available as an a la carte option at lunch not just to athletes but all students. In fact, they can be ordered in advance with the customized mix of entrée, sides and beverage choices ready to go. 

“It is all self-contained, so a student can eat three-quarters of it for lunch then put the rest in backpack to eat after last class of day,” Delbridge says. 

Performance Packs don’t qualify as reimbursable meals because they are too high in calories and fat content, but they do meet federal Smart Snack parameters that allow them to be sold as a la carte choices, Delbridge says. The muscle-building and endurance packs can run as high as 750 calories, while the recovery packs are a bit less, around 400 to 500 calories. 

The a la carte price of $5 reflects only the department’s costs, and coaches ordering for their teams can use fundraising money to pay for them. Sales fluctuate over the course of the year, depending on the sport season, but the department generally sells several hundred a day in the district’s five high schools.


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