By Rebecca Kaplan, VRG intern
The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity’s (NANA) webinar, “School Fundraising Can Be Healthy and Profitable,” discussed healthy alternatives to selling junk food as a way to raise money for schools. Selling unhealthy food on school property sends kids a mixed message about what to eat – teachers tell them to choose the healthy
option, but how can they be expected to do that when the only choices are a bag of chips, a hot dog, or a cookie?
The webinar also discussed that another problem is programs like Box Tops for Education, or Campbell’s Labels for Education, which encourage consumers to buy
products to support schools. This seems philanthropic but it is actually a marketing technique for the companies. The webinar indicated that as a way to raise funds for
schools, it is ineffective. The Campbell’s Labels for Education program gives schools one point for every participating Campbell’s product purchased, and schools can redeem points for school-related merchandise. But a box of colored pencils is priced at 950 points. According to NANA, you would have to buy $1,400 worth of soup (950 cans of soup at $1.50 a can) for a school to earn enough to buy one box of colored pencils through this program. Besides this, NANA says that 80% of the products in these programs are of poor nutritional quality, which sends the wrong message to children.
According to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “schools have a wide range of non-food and healthy-food fundraising options to choose from,” such as walkathons or selling bottles of water with sponsored ads from local businesses. Schools can also ensure that the food they sell on campus is up to a
higher nutritional standard. The Texas PTA has a program called “Better Bites” which brings produce, such as bananas and apples, to school bake sales. Principals and teachers are often the hardest to persuade to make changes, because they feel that candy and junk food will raise more money. But the report by CSPI found that schools make less money than they may think by selling junk food. For instance, a school may sell $17,000 worth of candy as a fundraiser, but if the candy costs $11,000 to buy, the profit margin for the school is only $6,000. This amount could be replaced by a healthier activity. For example, a Walk-A-Thon could raise $6,000 if 120 walkers participate with $50 each in sponsorships.
If you want to help, CSPI outlined ways you can help support healthier food in vending machines and fundraisers at schools. You can comment in support of USDA proposed regulations – research done by an organization called Bridging the Gap found that less than 35% of school districts nationwide have regulated the type of food allowed to be sold at schools (and of that regulation, it is more stringent for elementary schools than for high schools). You can also sign up for an action network, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspinet.org), the American Public Health Association (apha.org), or join The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (nanacoalition.org). You can also send schools information about healthy fundraising ideas, and help update and implement school wellness policies.
More information can be found online at: