School Food Fundraising - a Healthy Eating Research Issue Brief

Released this month, Healthy Eating Research published a summary of school food fundraising tactics, strategies and how it affects our kids' diets. With two girls in preschool, I know this is bound to become an issue sooner rather than later.

Creative ways to celebrate, raise money and generally have fun without junk are so important. Even though both girls are under three, I can already see it creeping in with birthday parties, holidays and seemingly endless celebrations. 

Here's a bit about the brief:

This brief reviews the evidence on food-related fundraising in schools and changes to the school food environment over the past decade, providing new data from the Bridging the Gap (BTG) research program’s 2013-14 school year national survey data. In-school fundraisers can be problematic nutritionally because, historically, unhealthy foods such as baked goods, candies, and sugary drinks have often been sold as part of these fundraising events. Food-related fundraising is common and has been in existence for many years, though the past decade has brought a variety of changes to the school food landscape. For example, the Smart Snacks school nutrition standards, which went into effect July 2014, define the portions and types of foods and beverages that can be sold outside of school meals on school campuses during the school day. However, these standards also allow states to exempt some fundraisers at which unhealthy foods and beverages may be sold, which has resulted in a patchwork of fundraiser policies and practices nationwide. The brief also describes potential strategies that may offer opportunities for schools to successfully raise funds without adversely impacting student health.

There are - and should continue to be - an emphasis on promoting healthy fundraisers through Smart Snacks or other non-food initiatives.  As the issue brief points out, approximately half of elementary schools now hold physical activity fundraisers. 

Take a look at the brief, talk to your kid's school about creative alternatives and work to ensure your state and local policies don't allow for exemptions that continue to feed the junk food fundraising machine.