The on-again, off-again issue of bake sales in Massachusetts schools is now officially off-again.
Earlier this month, a new school nutrition law was passed that meant that after August 1, bake sales, treats for classroom holiday and birthday celebrations, and candy bar fundraisers would soon be nothing but a sweet memory for students.
The law included a change in nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages sold or provided in public schools during the day. That meant that bake sales, traditionally one of the most popular fundraisers for school organizations, would be restricted to after school hours.
“We Are Interested In Student Nutrition”
But this all changed when Governor Deval Patrick, facing a rising clamor against the state’s ban on bake sales in school and a legislative revolt in the House and Senate, directed public health officials to scrap the restriction on the sale of the treats at bake sales during school hours. “Nobody is interested in banning bake sales,” Governor Patrick said Thursday. “We are interested in student nutrition.”
However, that doesn’t mean that the issue of reducing childhood obesity has gone away, or that school nutritional standards will be weakened.
“The school nutrition standards have always been about reducing childhood obesity in Massachusetts and protecting our kids from the serious long-term health impacts that obesity can cause,” John Auerbach, state public health commissioner, said in a statement.
“At the direction of Governor Patrick, the department will seek to remove these provisions. We hope to return the focus to how we can work together to make our schools healthy environments in which our children can thrive.”
The statement said that the school nutrition standards will continue to apply to the primary sources of food and beverages in public schools, including all those offered as a la carte items in cafeterias and available in vending machines and snack shops, so-called competitive foods because they are alternatives to the standard school lunch. The time frame to which the standards will apply will continue to be the school day itself and the 30-minute period directly prior to and following the school day.
New Nutritional Standards At Massachusetts Schools
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) worked with key partners such as the state’s Department of Education and Secondary Education, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission to develop the nutrition standards and regulations in the new legislation.
The new regulations apply to “competitive” foods and beverages sold or made available in public schools 30 minutes before the school day begins until 30 minutes after it ends. Competitive foods and beverages are defined as ones provided in concession stands, booster sales, fundraising activities, school-sponsored or school-related events, and in school buildings, stores, snack bars, and any other location on school property.
The controversy over school bake sales sparked a public outcry from many parents across the state involved in fundraising for school organizations and team sports.
Taking Action To Combat Childhood Obesity
Whatever the eventual outcome, it is good to know that schools in Massachusetts are taking action to combat childhood obesity. Around the country, the picture is extremely varied: about half of U.S. states have adopted restrictions, including policies that limit the times or types of competitive foods available for sale in vending machines, cafeterias, and school stores and snack bars. Most states restrict access to competitive foods when school meals are being served. Five states restrict access to vending machines all day long.
And given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in every five children is obese, these are all important moves in the right direction.
But one or two cupcakes sold at a bake sale really aren’t going to make a difference.
Photo Credit: donna_makes_cakes