Student-athletes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are getting an extra nutritional boost from Chattanooga's biggest grocer with the opening of the "Food City Fueling Station" inside the Wolford Family Strength & Conditioning Center on campus.
Food City, the Abingdon, Virginia-based supermarket chain that operates 132 stores in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia, presented UTC a $145,000 check Thursday to fund a five-year program to provide nutritional food and snacks to athletes at UTC.
"This is definitely a game-changing partnership for our athletics program," Mark Wharton, vice chancellor and director of athletics at UTC, said Thursday after Food City made its donation to the university in the Brenda Lawson Student-Athlete Center. "We are extremely grateful for Food City's investment in our student-athletes. We are already seeing this initiative impact the performance of our programs, and we are now able to sustain it for the next five years."
Wharton said the new fueling station will help students get a nutritional snack when they are working out or between classes when they may not otherwise have time to visit the university center or other campus facilities.
"We have a registered dietitian that we work with to see what we need to buy and what our student-athletes need from nutritional shakes to peanut butter sandwiches and other grab-and-go items," Wharton told the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Thursday. "This is critical because schools our size don't have the resources to fund something like this ourselves."
Food City has been a corporate sponsor of UTC athletics for several years, but company President Steve Smith said the grocery chain was eager to do more to support UTC.
"It's just a real treat for us to be able to give back to the university and to give back to this community," Smith said in a news conference Thursday. "One of the things we know at Food City is that food and diet is so important to people's health and well-being. When you are a student-athlete and you perform at the level these students do, it's important that you get your calories and the right nutrition for success."
Smith said Food City has provided financial and food support at other schools in its five-state footprint, "but not to this level with a five-year commitment."
"This is kind of breaking ground for us at Food City here because I think UTC has a great program we're happy to support," Smith said.
— Compiled by Dave Flessner