By Michelle Oppen, HOPE Steering Committee member and OUSD Wellness Program Manager
At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, a new Smart Snacks in Schools Rule began its implementation across the country. This policy has created guidelines and ârulesâ around food sold outside of the school meal program, like school fundraisers, in order to improve the health of the school environment and students/families. We all know that classic school fundraisers for the past several decades have included the sales of cookies, cakes, candy bars, cookie dough, nachos and pizza. We have all participated. And, for good reasonâour schools need the money for field trips, supplies and enrichment programs/staff. These food items are loved by most kids, easy to acquire, cheap to purchase or make at home and have such strong markup potential that it makes sense that these have always been âgo-toâsâ.
I was recently meeting with parents to brainstorm alternatives to the typical food sales they had been having. Several parents chimed in that these things are able to be purchased everywhere so why should the school fundraising budget suffer due to a bigger community/national problem? My brain started thinking about all of the other things easily available in our neighborhoods and that we certainly do not want our kids exposed to anywhere, especially at school. So, why is this different?
I knowâbuying and eating a cookie once in a while is fine for mostâafter all, everything in moderation, right? The thing is–this is not just once in a while. Some schools have food fundraisers weekly or almost daily. If you add up all of the sugary food from fundraisers with the lollipops rewarded for good attendance, the cupcake to celebrate a birthday, the stop at the corner store on the way home for soda and chips, the treat later onâwe are not talking about moderation any more.
We have the opportunity at schools to create healthy environments that we may not experience when we leave the campus. The selling of unhealthy foods at schools is one puzzle piece we could easily remove from the complicated food system that exists outside. We should take advantage of that not only because it is the âruleâ, but because it is the right thing to do.