Healthy Kids Act Constraining Schools’ Culinary Activities

The Tennessee State Board of Education has come up with its new bake sale regulations.  Joey Garrison, writing for The Tennessean, says that only 30 days will be allotted for bake sales, cook-offs, and other food-based fundraisers on each campus in Tennessee.  This decision was based on new federal health regulations including the guidelines in the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that goes into effect this school year.

“That means if the Spanish club sells sausage biscuits one morning, that’s one day,” said David Sevier, deputy executive director of the state board of education. “If there’s a school-wide event where all the teachers cook hamburgers for the seniors, then that’s a day. If there’s a day when the parents do pizza for the entire school, that’s a day. If it’s 10 kids or 1,000 kids, it’s still counting as one of those events.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 went into effect on July 1, and is in place to assure that nutritional standards of food and snacks for grades K-12, are made with less fat and salt.    The act also places the US Secretary of Agriculture in charge of school cafeterias, lunch lines, hallway vending machines, bake sales, and everything food-related.

“If somebody wants to object to federal intrusion in what’s going on in schools, I think this would be an ideal place to target their objections as opposed to some of the other things people are tending to complain about,” state board of education chairman Fielding Rolston said, alluding to complaints lobbed at new Common Core standards.

“It’s unbelievable to me the amount of guidelines that are there.”

The only exceptions will be food served at sporting events, activities outside school hours, food items that are purchased to be eaten away from the campus, and snacks permitted under the new nutrition codes.

Tennessee wants to cooperate, but the restrictions put on bake sales are making waves.  The regulation that specifies how many days they can be held means, for example, sports teams’ weekly food fundraisers.

Twelve states have already drawn up their own policies to get around the Act’s “competitive snacks” and any other foods or beverages that are sold on school grounds idea, writes Marina Koren of the National Journal.  The latest is Georgia, which is “pushing back” because selling food, state officials say,  makes money, which is much-needed for worthwhile education programs.  The Georgia Department of Education, said in a recent press release, “While we are concerned about the obesity epidemic, limiting food-and-beverage fundraisers at schools and school-related events is not the solution to solving it.”

Georgia education administrators have begun calling this the “War on Brownies”.  But, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, believes that there are plenty of healthy alternatives as fundraising options to selling junk food.

More importantly, as stated in an article in the Harvard Family Research Project:

In high-achieving districts, school board members, administrators, and teachers alike can link district improvement goals to actions to be undertaken in individual schools and classrooms. Tying family involvement to the school improvement process can help increase visibility and understanding of how families fit into the larger school improvement picture.

The article is based on Beyond the Bake Sale by Anne Henderson, Karen Mapp, Vivian Johnson, and Don Davies, and, specifically a section which discusses examples of successful district level family involvement in schools.