The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Huddle Mart sells healthy snacks

Meg Mirshak | Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Huddle Mart in the LaFortune Student Center, recently added a shelf of gluten-free, dairy-free, organic and soy food products the first week of March.

The products were added in response to requests from students with food allergies and other special dietary needs.

The new products occupy a rack where DVD and movie rentals were displayed before being removed over winter break. According to Huddle Mart staff, the movie rentals did not bring in enough revenue for the space they occupied.

Jim LaBella, General Manager of the Huddle Mart who helped implement the changes, said that there has been an increase in the number of students requesting gluten-free and natural grocery products.

Jocie Antonelli, the manager of nutrition and safety for Notre Dame Food Services, made suggestions to LaBella based on comments from students with vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free diets.

Antonelli assists students with special dietary needs in the campus dining halls – adding special products in the Huddle Mart is the first attempt of Food Services to accommodate needs at the multiple food locations across campus.

“So many students with gluten-free diets had trouble finding things on campus they could snack on. The new products give them more options on campus to eat,” Antonelli said.

If students did not have a car to shop for food off-campus, they had to seek alternatives like care-packages sent from home, ordering food online or personal shopping by Antonelli, she said.

LaBella spoke with a distributor of natural foods, and the distributor also made recommendations on what products would sell and meet the students’ needs at Notre Dame.

The response to the new products has been “very good,” and he will continue to order health food and natural grocery items that cater to students’ needs but added that the Huddle Mart cannot have products so specific that they will not sell.

“I am asking people who have allergies to let me know if there are other items missing. I think having a variety of products that serve everyone is a positive all the way around,” LaBella said.

Among the new items for sale, pita chips, microwavable noodle and rice bowls and snack bars have been popular, LaBella said.

One student who benefits from this improvement is freshman, Michelle Gaseor who has an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease, which limits her diet to gluten-free foods. She cannot eat products containing wheat, barley, oats or rye.

If a person suffering from Celiac Disease, also known as eliac sprue, or gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE), consumes food containing gluten, the villi in the small intestine are damaged, preventing them from properly absorbing nutrients, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation’s website. This can lead to more long-term health problems such as osteoporosis and lactose intolerance, among other health issues according to the website.

“I wasn’t able to use [my Flex Points] on anything healthy. I’m pretty happy with the new products,” said Gaseor, referring to the money allotted with her Student Meal Plan.

Before the Huddle Mart began carrying the new products, Gaseor was forced to store a large supply of gluten-free snack bars that she brought from her home in her dorm room. Gaseor is now able to buy snack bars, pasta meals, and cookies in the Huddle Mart.

She added that the prices at The Huddle Mart are also helpful to her. While shopping for foods that will accommodate a gluten-free diet, Gaseor has learned to compare prices and said that she will continue to shop at the Huddle Mart where the prices on gluten-free foods are not significantly higher than other stores.

“The Huddle Mart prices are pretty competitive, which is nice,” Gaseor said.