BLOG: Is it time to end junk food fundraisers in schools?

Bianca

Bake sales, pizza parties, cake walks and hotdog days. These are the go-to fundraising options at most B.C. schools, and some parents aren’t too pleased.

People love food, so it makes sense to have edible offerings when raising much-needed funds for schools. Many parents (like myself) dislike making lunches, so offering lunch programs that both bury the burden of lunch-making and raise much-needed funds for their child’s school seems like a great solution.

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But junk food isn’t the only option.

When it comes to ensuring that kids are presented with healthier lunch options in school cafeterias, the new policies that have been put in place in several provinces across Canada seem like a great start, but is banning all non-healthy foods from schools the right solution?

One province has taken it a step too far.

In New Brunswick - the first province in Canada to ban junk food from schools and where a healthy food policy has been in place for over a decade - a stricter policy was put in place this past June, increasing bans on foods. As a result, local parents are left starving for more options as they face challenges that have arisen as a result.

The list of food and beverage items banned has expanded to include items such as chocolate milk and juices - drinks that are no longer allowed in school cafeterias. Not only are kids restricted to water and milk as drink options, but what’s most upsetting for New Brunswick parents is that the food bans now extend to those school-fundraising activities that reach beyond the cafeteria walls, including outside initiatives hosted by the school parent advisory councils.

These PAC groups run several school events geared towards raising funds for children who come from families who cannot afford to provide lunch for their kids, and school supplies for classrooms with a less-than-satisfactory budget for books.

One school in the region raised over $8,000 through a Halloween candy campaign, and with these new regulations in place, they are worried that those missing funds will result in hungry kids and a serious scarcity of supplies.

B.C., PEI, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario all have healthy lunch policies in place, but an outright ban on foods has not been put in place - at least not yet.

According to the Guidelines For Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools - a mandated policy created by the Government of B.C. to encourage healthy eating in schools - the minimum nutrition standards that must be met when food and beverages are sold to students are clearly defined, yet many fundraising initiatives have opted for some less-than-healthy lunch options instead.

While I agree with the push to put healthier foods in schools, I think moderation should be modelled, with some exceptions made for special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. Instead of vilifying certain foods, we should educate parents about the damaging effects that some of the junk food items can have on their children and encourage them to make healthy meals at home.

I would love for my children to nosh on quinoa and kale chips for their school lunch fundraisers, but my picky eaters would just pack those items and bring them back home. I’m happy to treat them to a few pizza days if it helps their school to feed children in need and provide much-needed funds for supplies and other items.

Canada’s stricter school districts shouldn’t feel fed up with fundraisers that feed kids, they should be focusing on making sure that the kids get fed.

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee. 

 

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