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September 22, 2013

For fundraisers, let's bag the junk

It’s late September. I’ve been to all the back-to-school meetings where well-meaning administrators paid lip service to student wellness, new standards of nutrition in the school cafeteria and healthy habits for high-performing students.

Yet that usual suspect just came home in my son’s backpack: the school fundraising catalog.

Never mind the barbeque and chili suppers to try to engage parents with the school community, the omnipresent cheap chip-bag and candy-bar come-ons at evening meetings and the emails asking us to go to the local fast-food joint for a special “school night.” We’re now well into fall appeal season and the food offerings are standard fundraising fare.

In addition to the wrapping papers, mugs and candle sets, there are sugary funnel-cake kits, assorted candies, the fatty multiflavored cookie doughs, fudge bars and oh-so-trendy cake pops. Plus the ultra-salty gourmet chips, soup and dip mixes, the cured meats and mixed nuts.

Two years ago when I last wrote about the topic of how needy public schools trying to bolster their extracurricular programs through unhealthy fundraisers actually undermine efforts to stem our national, multigenerational obesity epidemic, it was like a tree falling in the woods.

Imagine my delight to learn that not only are grass-roots movements for healthy food in schools starting to spread across the country, but big names in nutrition policy like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are putting their efforts into addressing this ultra-touchy issue.

From blog posts on “Bag the Junk,” a website of the Healthier School Food Advocacy project run by the National Education Association, to full-length Center for Science in the Public Interest videos on YouTube about how “School Fundraising Can Be Healthy and Profitable,” the word is finally starting to get around.

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