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Huppert takes a different approach to lunch

Steamboat Springs students will get made-from-scratch meals in December

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For more information about the Steamboat Springs School District’s nutritional services department or to see lunch menus, visit http://www.steamboatschoolfood.com.

Steamboat Springs School District Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert will create all the entrees on the school menu from scratch this month. He says the district has made an effort in the past to make many entrees from scratch, but this December, he's preparing all of the meals from scratch.
John F. Russell

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For more information about the Steamboat Springs School District's nutritional services department or to see lunch menus, visit http://www.steamboatschoolfood.com.

— Steamboat Springs School District students will get a month's worth of home-cooked-style meals starting today.

Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert and his staff are preparing all meals from scratch this month. With the exception of some ingredients such as chicken stock, he estimated that 95 percent of school lunch meals in December will be made from fresh ingredients.

Huppert, a professionally trained chef in his third year with the district, said December's made-from-scratch menu is a continuation of his goal to provide healthy lunch choices for students. He said it also will help him meet state-mandated nutrition requirements for students.

Huppert estimated that the district currently is providing 60 percent of its lunches from scratch. But he wanted to go for 100 percent.

"We just want to show that a public school system, even with high free and reduced (lunch) counts, can crank out what we crank out on a reduced budget," Huppert said.

December's meals for elementary-, middle- and high-school students include herb-roasted chicken; braised lentils with eggplant and mushrooms; and roast duck with plum sauce, brown rice with pecans and scallions.

Huppert said trying to get children and teenagers off processed and fast food was the hard part.

"We're hoping parents talk to their kids about trying new foods," he said. "A lot of these kids have probably never had some of this stuff before. They'll get to try new things. They may like it or they may not, but they'll get to try it."

Huppert said the goal was to get them eating healthy at an earlier age. Many of the students have noticed.

"It's more adult," said Steamboat Springs High School freshman Nikki Fry, who added that high school lunches have been an improvement from middle- and elementary-school fare. There have been more choices differing from lunch staples such as chicken nuggets and pizza, she said.

Freshman Alyssa McMahon said the lunches "aren't kiddie food."

Hannah Hartley said she doesn't even eat lunch at school, but the food seems better.

"It definitely is better," said senior Dylan Pivarnik, who added that he doesn't eat school lunch very often. "It's a lot better. The quality is a lot better nowadays."

When she learned this month's menu would be made almost entirely from scratch, sen­ior Lexi Pappas said she would eat lunch at school more often.

"If it's made from scratch, it will be better," she said. "It's already good, so it will be way good. It's good either way."

Still, some students said they didn't prefer school lunch to what they could get at home. Others didn't want to pay $3.50 to buy a school lunch. Some said they just didn't like the food.

Huppert said buying fresh food as opposed to processed food would save the district money, but preparing the from-scratch meals would be more work for his 12-person full-time staff.

But he said the staff is on board because they're making better food for the students.

That was true for staff member Tyson Jolliffe, who chopped top round Monday for Thursday's lunch of Asian beef and broccoli with jasmine rice.

"It's really exciting," Jolliffe said. "It's something different. I never thought the school district would do this. It's like cooking out of a restaurant."

Huppert said in the future, he would like to work with other school districts in Colorado to encourage them to provide made-from-scratch meals for students. And he's working on developing a culinary program for juniors and seniors to learn how to cook.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com