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School takes a bite out of sweets

Steamboat Springs High School food service employees notice significant decline in sales

Steamboat Springs High School freshman Christian Weeden drinks an Izze juice Thursday during lunch. The drink is one of the healthful alternatives the school sells.
Matt Stensland

— Cookies used to cost 50 cents. Brownies were $1. In the Steamboat Springs High School cafeteria, ice cream treats would cost as much as $2.

Now, those treats and almost all other sugary snacks have disappeared. Nutritional Services Director Max Huppert has removed the candy and soda in favor of more healthful fare.

The move comes after Colorado legislators banned sodas from public schools. The law does not take effect until July 1, but Huppert decided to make the transition early and to expand it to cover other sweets in Steamboat Springs School District schools.



As a result, all caffeinated beverages have been removed.

“There are a lot of studies done that show cutting sugar out makes a big difference in classrooms,” Huppert said, adding that fewer fights and more attentive students can be a result. The ban has not been in effect long enough for teachers to see a change, but Huppert hopes the long-term benefits are noticed.



The high school has not added many other snacks to replace the missing sweets. Potato chips, mostly of the baked variety, still are available for purchase. Sodas have been replaced by drinks such as bottled water and the $2 Izze, a bottled drink made from fruit juice and carbonated water. Huppert said he has a contract with a Coca-Cola distributor to bring in a new form of flavored water that doesn’t contain sugar.

Food service worker Fran Pelletier has been mixing fresh fruit smoothies each morning for the past two weeks. She makes them with fruit, yogurt and refined honey.

Even so, Pelletier, who was working the register at the high school during Thursday’s lunch hour, said food sales have declined by as much as half.

Huppert said the profits on the snacks were one of the largest sources of revenue for the kitchen, which traditionally has overrun its budget. Profits on the snacks ranged from 15 cents to $1 apiece, and profits averaged 25 cents. This year, however, Huppert thinks his department will hit its budget goal even as it provides mahi-mahi and lettuce wraps, a meal that is on the menu for Wednesday.

Junior Andy Aranyosi asked Pelletier where he could buy candy Thursday, nearly two weeks after it was removed from the school.

“Usually, I came to get dessert and stuff. The chef is letting me down,” he joked with Huppert. “That’s the only way you got my money, anyway.”

Pelletier said students who regularly eat in the school cafeteria immediately noticed when their sweets were removed, but the majority of complaints came from a small group of students.

“The thing is, it’s only the ones who ate (sugary food) every day for lunch who are complaining,” Pelletier said. “It was frustrating to see them eat junk food.”

Freshman Hunter Burton, standing outside the cafeteria with a cup of soda from Subway, said he was disappointed by the choices.

“We just don’t get good stuff anymore. It’s healthy,” he said. “I was mad.”

His friend, sophomore Dillon Brown, was eating a plate of chicken fingers and pasta tossed with chicken and tomatoes from the cafeteria that would not look out of place in a restaurant.

Brown said the food was good but not up to his usual standards.

“I would rather have a Snickers bar,” he said.


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