Steamboat school lunch prices to increase

Change next school year will be at high school, middle school

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— In an effort to pay for the food and to make the district’s lunch program self-supporting, lunch prices at Steamboat Springs High and Middle schools are going up.

Learn more about school lunches

Visit the Steamboat Springs School District's food website at http://www.steamboatschoolfood.com/

During a presentation at Monday’s Steamboat Springs School Board meeting, Nutri­tional Services Director Max Huppert said prices would increase for the 2010-11 school year to $4 from $3 at the high school and to $3.50 from $3 at the middle school.

Huppert, entering his third year with the district, started preparing school lunches from scratch last year to provide higher quality and healthier choices to students. It allowed him to move away from processed foods.

“We want to provide nutrient-rich meals with diverse ingredients, but with school food service, we have to make sure the kids will eat it, the feds will allow it and we can afford it,” he told the School Board.

The school district’s lunch program is an enterprise fund, which means what it charges students should pay for food and labor costs. But it doesn’t always work that way. The district’s general fund has subsidized the lunch program several times during previous years.

Huppert said Tuesday that two years ago the lunch program paid for itself, but it missed the mark last year. He attributed that to an increased number of students who received lunches for free or at a reduced cost through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.

Last year in Steamboat, the number of students participating in the program increased 30 percent, to 215 from 165, according to statistics provided by the district as of the Oct. 1 student count.

Students can apply for eligibility for the program throughout the school year. The district is reimbursed $2.69 by the federal government for each meal it provides for free. The discounted lunches cost students 40 cents, which won’t change next year.

Huppert told the School Board that he expects the number of students participating in the free and reduced lunch program to increase again this year.

That was part of the reason School Board member Laura Anderson said this wasn’t the time to raise lunch prices.

“My opinion is we should cut back on it this year,” she said.

Superintendent Shalee Cun­ning­­­ham told the School Board that the district would evaluate the new prices this year and adjust them in the future if necessary. Huppert offered a similar concession Tuesday.

Despite the price increase, Huppert said hitting his budget is dependent on the number of students who choose to eat at school.

He said numbers were down overall last school year, mostly at the middle school. He said the high school numbers always are low because juniors and seniors are allowed to leave at lunch and the students who do stay are more interested in getting a quick bite during the all-school lunch period so they can socialize with friends.

But Huppert did say the number of lunches sold at Soda Creek Elementary School increased because the school moved to a six-lunch schedule. He’s hoping for a similar outcome this year at Strawberry Park Elementary School, which is transitioning to the same schedule.

Huppert said most of his work to incorporate more high-quality and healthy choices is directed toward elementary and middle school students.

“We’re definitely focusing more on the elementary level to get them started at an early age, to get them started on a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

For next year, Huppert said he used about $40,000, three years of his annual equipment budget, to buy new equipment for the schools that he said will help him prepare better food.

Huppert said students at both elementary schools every day this year will choose among a hot entrée; a sandwich with homemade breads they make from a deli bar that includes meats and high-end cheeses and veggies; and a salad bar with as many as 30 items, including fresh salmon some days and homemade dressings.

At the middle schools, students can choose among a hot entrée (the same as the elementary schools’); deli bar; salad bar; soup during winter; and menu items prepared on a new griddle such as hamburgers, bison hot dogs and stir fry.

Huppert said the griddle would be in view of the students when they walk into the cafeteria so they can see what’s prepared, smell it and know it’s fresh. Huppert also said he would serve Asian, Latin American and Mediterranean dishes he learned to prepare this summer during a class at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif.

At the high school, students choose daily among pizza, hamburgers, hot and cold sandwiches, two hot entrees, salads and fruit.

At all schools, the students can choose to drink milk or juice with their lunches. The high school also offers flavored waters.

Huppert said given the economy, he thought about not raising pricing this year. But he talked it over with his staff and said they agreed that in addition to meeting food costs and making the lunch program self-supporting, the higher price was fair based on the quality of the food and the size portions students receive.

It’s a challenge to provide better food and one he doesn’t have much control over.

“The state and White House are all pushing for high-quality things, but they’re not giving any money to do it,” Huppert said.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

I think they would be better off if they offered a less expensive simple ingredients meal and allow the more expensive meal to be an option. When the salad bar costs more because of a greater selection of more expensive options then it becomes silly to pay the price for a salad if all you want is lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber slices and some salad dressing. And those willing to pay tend to take as much of the more expensive ingredients as they can.

When the high school lunch gets close to the price of a Subway sandwich then I think their revenue numbers from high school will severely drop. Remember, they see it as a perk to get off campus for lunch in order to have a few minutes away from authority figures. If it is going to cost about the same then it is that much easier to leave.

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

TERRIFIC!!!! let's go back to serving PB&J's and applesauce!!! And maybe a carton of milk. Hmm...health issues..Max is trying to give these kids a an experience in life long good eating habits. HOW DARE HE??? I have worked under Chef Max. He taught me alot. He is giving our kids the chance to taste, experience and gain life long healthy eating habits. For $4 bucks a day, he is offering a heck of a deal. Maybe the best meal of the day for many of these kids. What other district can boost of a healthy, well balanced meal, with fresh and interesting ingrediants? We all are aware of obesity, and health issues related to a poor diet. Where else can our young-uns get an "almost gourmet meal" at this price, while at school? AHHH... no where. Has anyone seen where the lettuce at Subway comes from? A bag, Who knows how long it has been sitting on a truck. Maybe, just maybe, if kids were given a chance to enjoy a good meal with company they wouldn't feel the need to go off campus? When I was in high school, I was given the choice between the pizza or the "maggot wagon" Oddly enough I chose the wagon. Why? Pre-packaged chips, soda and beef jerky. (preservitives, made it safer to eat.)Yum Yum there.... Really, here is a guy who has an interest in improving our kid's life long eating habits. Let's support him and not complain about the dollars. And let us also remember the same guy who fed kids for nothing when their parents wouldn't for whatever reason pay for the "tab" a year or so ago. Max still made sure there was something with nutritional content GIVEN to these kids, on his buck. Four bucks is nothing compared to the interest in healthy eating habits he is trying to encourage.

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addlip2U 4 years, 4 months ago

It is the responsibility of each parent to assure their child has a meal either by bringing a meal from home or if they choose and can afford to, enjoy the great benefit of the gourmet meal offered at school. Basta!

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

PBJ, apple sauce and a carton of milk would be an easier sell to my daughter than bison hot dogs. I appreciate the efforts to provide better food, but if you think the battle for good nutrition is over the difference between Subway lettuce and Max's gourmet lettuce then you are sadly mistaken. My generation had sandwiches and a carton of milk for lunch and did not have an issue with childhood obesity

The real issue is all of the highly processed junk foods that are high in calories and fat that kids eat as an afternoon snack and sometimes dinner. Some of these kids are cooking for themselves and they are eating what they can pull out of the freezer and put in the microwave. Bison hot dogs is going to have no impact on what they eat at home. No kid is going to pop a bison dog into the microwave and eat that after school instead of a frozen pizza.

I am just suggesting that $4 for high school cafeteria meal can be expected to hurt sales even more. If I was in high school that would be enough for me to make my own lunch and pocket the $4. Or I could make my own a couple days a week and go off campus and eat at McDonalds or such the other 3 days a week.

Simple question: Does anyone believe that a $4 cafeteria meal made with better ingredients is going to make any difference in childhood obesity? I could even argue that the higher price will drive more away and some of those will bring their own lunches with highly processed foods.

I am not opposed to the idea of better meals. My main point is that if the only option is a more expensive meal then it will cause sales to decrease. I think it would make more sense to offer a simpler less expensive meal as well as the more expensive option.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

bandmama

Re: your outrageously outrageous outrage -

I read recently that American high schoolers are presently rated something like 36th in math & science, when measured against their counterparts in the rest of the world. I would happily endorse pp&j in the cafeteria if it meant the extra $ was being pumped into teachers & curricula. It is not the state's responsibility to teach "life long healthy eating habits", any more than dental hygiene or the use of chopsticks.

I think Scott's "simple question" has already been answered. The piece cites Mr. Huppert's admission that the program is a) in the red, and b) not well received. Very few students are availing themselves of the option: 215 last year. District enrollment is 2077. You do the math.

How about we try to inculcate a sense of financial responsibility? Because right now the lesson appears to be: you can have your lump crabmeat & jasmine rice, but only if it's on somebody else's dime.

Incidentally, if you google the nutritional data on your suggested meal of pp&j, applesauce, & milk, I think you'll find it's pretty healthy.

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

Outrage? That is funny. I was just pointing out that if I send 4 bucks a day for my kids lunch, then yes I am very pleased that there are options besides chicken patty sandwiches and tater tots. You are all right, lets forget teaching our kids to eat better and give them that PB&J and applesauce. As pointed out, it is our responsibility to feed our kids, and we all know that they eat that applesauce with gusto! (no matter how balanced it is, it is still applesauce from a can) Scott you have a good point about the processed foods many kids are eating at home. Another reason that better options offered at school is a good thing. For many it is the only place that there is that option.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

bandmama:

If the 4 bucks you're spending on your kid's lunch actually paid for the meal, I'd say more power to you. The problem is the rest of us are required to pick up the tab on the remaining cost. Why is it my responsibility to teach your kids how to eat?

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max huppert 4 years, 4 months ago

SEP ? you dont pay any tab on a paid meal, it does cover the cost of meal and labor. But your tax dollars do pay the whole portion of the 2.69 the state pays from tax money to pay for a free lunch. You are not teaching anyone how to eat, there is a choice for you to pack a lunch for your child. But we do wish to provide a meal that will help in the growth of a healthy body and increase the learning potential in the class room.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

maxinc:

"The school district’s lunch program is an enterprise fund, which means what it charges students should pay for food and labor costs. But it doesn’t always work that way...

...Huppert said Tuesday that two years ago the lunch program paid for itself, but it missed the mark last year. "

Who's funding the shortfall?

You write: "But we do wish to provide a meal that will help in the growth of a healthy body and increase the learning potential in the class room."

Agreed. But I'll wager that goal can be achieved much more economically without grassfed bison, jasmine rice, & lump crabmeat. bandmama implies it is incumbent upon the school to teach "life long good eating habits". I disagree, and see it as another example of parents (and students) relinquishing personal responsibility, in favor of the Campus Babysitter.

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mmjPatient22 4 years, 4 months ago

Bravo Max! Maybe the "learning difficiencies," if you will, are stemming from an overburdening amount of sugar and caffiene? Maybe kids these days are just too wired to be paying full attention in class? Maybe kids "back in the day" had a lot more less-sugary food options? Gee, I wonder if that factors in at all to the obesity and diabetic issues that seem to be plagueing our nation/children? Despite a parent's best efforts, their child is still bombarded with and surrounded by the sweet sugary options. How can positive change(s) be affected towards cutting down on that? I think, at least at this point, we're going to need some much broader and grand solutions to our children's healthy eating habits/options.

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

sep- FYI, I pay taxes too. And how much would you estimate a sack lunch would cost you? Think about the cost of a loaf of bread, fillings, fruit, dessert, drinks and perhaps a snack. Even if you buy it at Safeway the cost is about the same on a weekly basis, and sometimes more when you have to replace what was eaten as a snack or whatever before the week ends. Any mom who goes grocery shopping might agree with that. For 20 bucks a week I know my child has the option of getting a healthy meal at lunch, five days a week.
My kid does know how to eat a balanced meal. His dad is a chef and both of us have worked food service combined for over 30 years. Do you have a problem with a kid taking a health class that teaches the same values? If it is taught in the schools why not give the kids a chance to follow through with what we are teaching them by offering choices in the cafeteria besides the menus we had as kids? I

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

bandmama:

Where do you think we are - Zimbabwe? You are among the Enlightened Few, and Big Brother must now be enlisted to save the great unwashed from themselves?

There isn't an American alive with an IQ above room temperature who doesn't know what makes people fat. I'm 46, and I've heard the benefits of diet & exercise extolled my entire life. And the information available today is light years beyond what it was when you & I were growing up.

One of my work computers has MSN as the homepage. The front page story today: The 10 Worst Fast Food Meals in America http://health.msn.com/nutrition/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100261813&gt1=31036 It's accompanied by a pic of a burger & fries.

If Americans are overweight, it's because they've chosen to be. Not because they don't know any better. And Mr. Huppert's homemade vinaigrette in the cafeteria won't change anything (except to make the nanny-staters among us feel better about themselves).

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

I had review my earlier posts, no where did I mention obesity.(I said life long healthy eating habits) Whats wrong with the students who are already fit eating a healthier diet? If you haven't noticed there aren't really alot of obese students in Steamboat. Maybe I am missing a whole massive population of tubbies eating Ding Dongs at recess or something? Sep- back off and get a life. The food is good, Max is doing a great job and no one is forcing anyone to buy cafeteria food. Zimbabwe? No, just a little tourist town. We all know what it costs to live here, that is a choice also.

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

OPPS, I DID mention obesity., my bad. The food is still worth the four bucks.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

bandmama:

In your first post to this thread, you wrote: "We all are aware of obesity, and health issues related to a poor diet."

I have no objection to Mr. Hubbert's efforts per se - he sounds like a great guy. As an enthusiastic cook myself, he seems like someone I'd like to hang out with. You outlined my problem with this program when you wrote: "...no one is forcing anyone to buy cafeteria food."

Wrong. I and every other property owner is being forced to pay for Mr. Hubbert's shopping list. Having been responsible for the acquisition & prep for large-scale charitable holiday meals, I know that what he spends on lump crabmeat could go a lot further were it spent more conventionally. Are his menus a nice amenity to the school district? You betcha. Could my tax dollars be spent a lot more responsibly? Absolutely.

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max huppert 4 years, 4 months ago

SEP, we can hang out if you want. I actually never got the lump crab meat, it cost to much. Will be cutting back to make sure no tax dollars are wasted. It is always our goal to never loose money. Please know I am honest about this and we do not ever want to have the community think our department wastes there money. You can always e-mail me directly to address concerns in the coming school year.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Huppert (apologies for misspelling your name in my last post):

Your honesty, commitment, & integrity are not the issue. I'm confident you're passionate about what you do, and do it as responsibly as possible - within the parameters you and the district have laid out.

It is those parameters I disagree with. I view them as overly broad an unnecessarily costly. I don't know about you, but I and many of my friends find ourselves on short rations in the present economy. One of the district's primary responsibilities is spending other people's money; and - in my opinion - that money is funding extravagance rather than necessity.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 4 months ago

Apropos of nothing, except I need to get it off my chest: I'm about 40 minutes into Avatar, and think it may be the stupidest movie I've ever seen.

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John Fielding 4 years, 4 months ago

.

I remember cafeteria meals in the 1960s, quite a lot of rice, green beans, corn,peas, and noodles with tomato and meat sauce. Nothing fancy, fairly nutritious. How much per day for that menu?

.

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pitpoodle 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Sep on this. "One of the district's primary responsibilities is spending other people's money; and - in my opinion - that money is funding extravagance rather than necessity." Providing healthy food is good -- no argument there. That said, when you raise prices as has been done, you discourage purchases. With numbers down overall last year, it makes no logical sense to increase prices to see if the numbers go up. The problem is "despite the price increase, Huppert said hitting his budget is dependent on the number of students who choose to eat at school." There is little chance the budget will be met unless students want to eat the school's lunch and unless parents agree and can afford to pay higher prices instead of packing a lunch to go. Many families are barely getting by -- this is not the time to experiment with special lunches at higher cost. Laura is right.

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bandmama 4 years, 4 months ago

Lots of people are having a tough go right now. I would rather see monies go for lunches than carpeting. Max, how much of that food is consumed as to what is waste? And in your opinion would you say that the kids actually eat what they pay for, as compared to when you came on board? (My reason for asking is that before, my kid would buy food and not eat it, said it was gross, he eats what he pays for now, Thus not wasting money or food.)

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