A while back, I sent you a dispatch from my kids’ elementary school Election Day bake sale in which I shared my ambivalence about this cherished school tradition. I loved the Norman Rockwell-esque buntings and flags and the kids clamoring to work behind the cash register, but I didn’t like seeing so much sugar go into the growing bodies of kids who — looking at the big societal picture — are getting way too much sugar in their diets already. (And as the organizer of the bake sale, I also expressed a little crankiness at being on my feet from dawn to dusk that day, literally.)
But even putting aside concerns about sugar, San Francisco school food reformer Dana Woldow (of PEACHSF.org) recently undertook a careful economic analysis of school bake sales, looking at the cost of ingredients and parent time/labor and questioning whether it’s an effective school fundraiser in the first place. Her findings might surprise you.
But regardless of the economics, the school bake sale holds a sacred place in the national consciousness that no amount of clear rationality is likely to affect. In late 2010, just before the historic passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (which overhauled school meals), Sarah Palin and other politicians stirred up opposition to the legislation by claiming it would bar school bake sales and candy fundraisers. In response, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack actually felt the need to write a letter to Congress to reassure the American public that school bake sales (if conducted after school) were safe from harm.
So, what do you think about all this? Do you think the bake sale tradition should be preserved at all costs? Or do you think rising rates of childhood (and adult) obesity and related diseases will eventually spell the demise of the all-American school bake sale?
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