Just a year and half ago, the Obama Administration promised Congress that the child nutrition bill would not mean the end of “approved and infrequent” fund-raising bake sales for school-related causes like booster clubs and PTAs.
But in implementing the new child nutrition act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced a total ban on bake sales and other “competitive” foods in schools beginning Aug. 1.
The ban created an uproar in Boston, where state officials wanted to apply it to everything, including vending machines, bake sales, holiday party foods, and even teachers handling out treats as academic rewards.
But after the Massachusetts House adopted an amendment lifting the ban, Gov. Deval Patrick totally backed down and had his officials publish an emergency repeal of the bake sale ban.
It’s the second time this year that Patrick’s expressed concern about childhood obesity went nowhere.
The first time, he called for $260 million in candy and soda taxes and extending bottle fees to water and iced tea.
His tax plan went down in flames. But the state education regulation required only his consent. Massachusetts has 1.5 million K-12 students, and one-third are said to be obese.
Two years ago when some critical websites were warning about enactment of the child nutrition bill, and top officials sought to knock down those predictions, the concern was that not only bake sales, but other traditional events like banquets, candy sales and food concessions at football games would be ended.
At the time, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wrote U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-CA, to say: “USDA agrees with and respects the intent of Congress to permit exemptions for school approved fundraisers–including bake sales or other occasional or infrequent fundraisers.” Miller was then chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Boston Herald reporters Laurel J. Sweet and Chris Cassidy announced the ban to their readers under a headline that read: “Parents: Rule’s half-baked. State’s junk food ban could take bite out of school fundraisers.” The story has generated around 600 comments, most of which do not spare their words.
For local school boards, the ban is going to put members between the state and their volunteers who raise money to fund school activities. Middleboro School Committeeman Brian Giovanoni says he respects what state officials are trying to do, but says they’ve gone off “the deep end.”
State Sen. Susan Fargo, who chairs the Joint Committee on Public Health, also cites the childhood obesity problem as the reason to ban bake sales and other competitive food sources. “If we didn’t have so many kids that were obese, we could have let things go,” she told the Herald.
President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in December 2010. The new law’s language directs how 19,000 local school food authorities in the National School Lunch Program will limit “competitive food.” Items of minimal nutritional value — like candy, soda, and gum — cannot be sold in school food service areas.