Banning bake sales

I was driving to work and listening to the radio 10 days ago. It was the “Holiday Lite” station. (I’ve had to ease up on the audiobooks, which have always been the standard during my commute, and go back to music ever since I started listening to Omnivore’s Dilemma. For a few weeks I felt down when I arrived at school and then later I felt deflated when getting home. I decided to stop listening to that audiobook and tried the radio again. I have felt a lot happier. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to finish listening to Michael Pollan’s book actually… It’s a terrific book, but heavy.)

This particular holiday station has commentary in the mornings, which bugs me (I expect all holiday music, all the time). Usually I go back and forth between a few music channels to avoid announcers’ voices.

But I happened to catch the beginning of a new topic (I don’t remember exactly what they said, but I’ll paraphrase it so you can get the gist):

DJ: “So they want to ban bake sales at school because they think bake sales are making kids fat.”
Then the DJ starts taking callers.
Caller 1: “I don’t think they should ban bake sales because we raise money for good causes…”

Caller 2: “I don’t think we should ban bake sales. In fact, there’s a bake sale at my son’s school today. I baked 24 cupcakes for the sale.”
DJ stirs it up, “How great! What is bake sale for?”
Caller 2: “Cancer research.”

(Silly off-hand side comment: Does anyone else find it ironic that the bake sale is for cancer research? Wouldn’t eating too many cupcakes (aka sugar) lead to cancer? I’m not against the occasional cupcake. In fact, after I took my son to the doctor last week, we went out for gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate orange cupcakes as a special treat. They were fantastic. All I’m saying is that I might have trouble buying a cupcake in the name of cancer research. I’d buy fruit or veggies in the name of cancer research in a heart beat!)

I was ready to call the radio station myself, but by the time the segment ended I was practically at work. I thought about emailing later in the day, but as you can imagine, my schedule is pretty full.

Here’s what the USDA Secretary Vilsack said, “banning bake sales is not the intent of the USDA.” Here’s what the new law does:

Section 208 of S. 3307, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, grants USDA the ability to set nutrition standards for all foods served at schools during the school day, including in vending machines, snack bars, and other “similar venues.”

Why should the USDA have some oversight of the school food environment? Read on…

The other morning I was leaving the main office. Two girls left after me. They were holding 10 chocolate bars in their hands. In the office on the counter a secretary is selling chocolate bars for a dollar for a fundraiser. I don’t where the money is going, but it’s not going to our school.

I saw the girls with the bars and I decided I had to know why they had so many chocolate bars. They were having trouble carrying them. “Why are you buying chocolate bars this morning?” I asked.

The girls looked at each other, paused, and then answered, “Because our teacher lets us buy them for lunch.”

Mrs. Q: “Are they all for you?”
One girl: “Us and the other kids.”

Mrs. Q: “Are you going to eat your regular school lunch?!”
The girls shrugged and successfully scurried away. I slammed my palm on my forehead.

It’s obvious that they would rather eat chocolate bars at lunch than anything else. Wouldn’t we all? I would prefer the kids eat the regular school lunch over eating one chocolate bar. I’m pretty surprised that the teacher let them do that considering we all know how little time the kids have to eat. If they eat that chocolate first, then there’s no time for anything else.

For the record, my school doesn’t do bake sales because the PTA is very small and the community surrounding the school is food insecure. Actually it’s remarkable that the kids had a buck in their pockets to pay for the chocolate bar.

What are your thoughts on school fundraisers using food?
Shouldn’t fundraisers inside the school benefit the school itself, a student group, or the PTA?

Further reading: Culture Wars: How Junk Food and Obesity Became Politicized

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