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Drexel Nutrition Lending their Labs to Reading Terminal Mainstay

March 15, 2016

The connection between the Department of Nutrition Sciences and Iovine Brothers, a family-run, long-standing staple at the Reading Terminal Market goes back almost five years, according to Stella Volpe, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department.

“We connected when I first came to Drexel to work together on a few photo opportunities and an alumni event,” she said. Though they kept in touch, recent years did not present any opportunities for collaboration until December 2015, when Director of Operations for Iovine Brothers Produce, Butch Dougherty, reached out to Laura Valenti, executive director, College Engagement, Marketing and Communications, to present a problem he hoped Volpe and her students could solve.

Dougherty noted that the business was expanding to include their own homemade line of fresh cold press juices, made and bottled in-house; a natural fit for Iovine Brothers and a huge draw for a steadily growing market of health-conscious patrons. The problem, though, was developing a system to accurately describe their nutritional value. According to Dougherty, “Because the fibers are removed from the juice in the pressing process, it makes it a little tougher to determine the nutritional value compared to a traditional recipe.”

Not only was Stella able to respond positively, offering to analyze the juices in the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory (Directed by Nutrition faculty member, Dr. Juan Muniz) along with graduate students, using lab-based and research-based programs and instruments, but she saw another opportunity for nutrition students to partner with Iovine Brothers and educate customers. “I thought it would be great for our students to be on-site at Iovine Brothers Produce to educate customers about nutrition!”

Graduate students in the Department were more than eager to answer the call. Nicole Stein, Coco Ellis, Jody Herman, Jessica Liu, Stacey Senter, Ritanne Duszak and Leah Tsui, have been volunteering regularly to enlighten patrons to the health benefits of the nutrient-rich ingredients in the juices.

Nicole Stein (MS, ’16) said of her experience, “On slower days, people do have a lot of questions about the juices. I’m able to recommend juices based on their questions, or break down the ingredients in the juice they are purchasing. For example, they have a lot of juices that have beets, so that gives you oxygen to your muscles. Or a lot of the recipes have antioxidants so I go along those lines sharing the health benefits of that.”

Stein says health benefits to each juice are undeniable, as the contents are entirely produce and vegetables, with no added sugar or water – just what you read on the label.

Analysis of the ingredients will begin this spring and the information should be made available to Iovine Brothers Produce customers by summer.