Banish Bake Sales?

‘Tis the season (almost) for those holiday bake sales, church/temple bazaars, and school fundraisers. Can’t you see them? Friendly folding table arrangements with impressive displays of frosted, glazed, and baked creations in all homemade varieties. The glossy brochures full of burgeoning tins brimming with gourmet chocolates, peppermint bark, and all manner of confectionery sweets. (Not that anyone is off the hook for the rest of the year. Think sports season candy bars, Girl Scout cookies, and so on.)

Most often it’s all for a good cause. Sometimes for good causes so close to your heart or community that they’re hard to pass up even if they’re selling items you don’t even eat. We’ve found ourselves wondering from time to time, “Are we the only ones who think there has to be a better way (or at least other ways) to get people to give than sweeten them up with, well, sweets?” Apparently, we’re not alone. The New York Times recently offered up a piece revealing the gradual decline of this old-fashioned philanthropic tradition in some parts of the country: the bake sale

The article highlights the demise of school-related bake sales in the context of nutritional policies within schools. Districts are increasingly clamping down on school lunch menus, vending offerings, and other foods sold or distributed to students. In California, state regulations dictate that school sponsored or sold snacks “contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.” (Yes, we could have a field day with these particular parameters, but we’ll choose to exercise uncharacteristic reserve and just stick to the sweet subject.)

And it isn’t just another California trend. As the Times reports, districts all over the country are enacting these types of rules, some stricter than California’s. A shout out to Kentucky here, by the way. (They’re essentially doing away with those so-called sports drinks where many states leave loopholes for them.) In fact, of the 500+ American school districts surveyed in one study, most had regulations limiting at least some of the target nutrition categories (“fat, trans fats, sodium and sugars”). Policies most often covered, not surprisingly, elementary school environments.

Experts like Ginger Gray, the director of school nutrition for the Kenton County School District in Kentucky, say the purpose behind these changes is not just to rescale the nutritional content of school offerings but to instill and exemplify “habits for life.” Their efforts seem to be working. In contrast to critics’ skepticism, kids aren’t “compensating for the absence of sugar or fat at school by raiding the refrigerator at home.” As Marlene B. Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale explains, “Some people think that kids have this internal potato chip monitor, but there’s no evidence of that. People really do eat what’s in front of them.” Let us enthusiastically second that….

These days, policy enforcers are taking the battle, as stated, to the bake sales – in sixteen states, no less. The do-gooder goods aren’t spared, it seems, from school policies’ “competitive foods” category, a label that highlights a long-standing antagonism between the salad bar and brownies. (If a ten-year-old had a choice…. “Pick me! Pick me!” says the loose spinach. Not.)

Gone, or at least numbered, are the days, of annual monster cookie fundraisers, cupcake drives, and holiday pie benefits, it seems. Disappearing as well are the celebratory cakes and ice cream socials. Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Berkeley school district, explains the logic this way: “I don’t think all celebrations need to be around food. We need to get past the mentality of food used for punishment or praise.” And though in some part of childhood ourselves we might let out a little nostalgic sigh (It’s those monster cookie memories, d—n it!), we agree that it’s time to move beyond the realm of sweets for charitable and commemorative solutions. One district’s idea had us all smiling and nodding in agreement: allowing “an extra 15 minutes of recess” for birthday observances. Now if that isn’t the best idea we’ve heard in a while!

As the Times reports, not everyone is on board with the “’cakes turned … contraband’” movement. We imagine public opinion would be pretty split on this one. Don’t get us wrong. There is a time and place for sensible vices, and times to make compromises to your usual routine. However, given the current health of our public, we’re certainly willing to stand with what we see as progress on this one. We think good people will support good causes even if they don’t serve up those sugary displays. Now what would a Primal “bake” sale look like? Hmmm. Got ideas, Apples?

micala, A-wix, Doramon Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

8 Ways to Reduce Your Chemical Load

Healthy Options for Seedlings

Reader Response: Practical Advice for Parents

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