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Schools moving toward healthier fundraisers
When it comes to raising funds at schools, fattening, empty carbs are making way for fun runs and protein bars. - photo by Eric Schulzke
"Bake sales are out;" fun runs are in, with excess calories in the crosshairs.

The changes stem from a "smart snacks" provision in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The regulations banning junk-food sales during school hours went into effect last July, part of a broad push on nutrition and weight control pushed by first lady Michelle Obama.

"Government rules requiring many schools to hold more nutritious fundraisers, along with a trend toward healthier eating in schools, could mean trouble for the long-beloved bake sale," the Associated Press reports. "In response, schools are selling everything from fruit to kid-friendly shoelaces."

The AP cites a Dallas teacher who reported that her school "stopped selling chocolate bars and started selling Y-Ties elastic shoelaces that don't have to be tied." And one parent in Denver said replacing a candy-soaked carnival with a fun run and healthier carnival food offerings actually improved fundraising revenue by three or four times the usual haul.

Not everyone likes the shift. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) is pushing a bill that would exorcise the "federal food police" from schools.

"Poe's bill, H.R. 881, would prevent federal nutrition standards developed by the Department of Agriculture under a 2010 law championed by first lady Michelle Obama from being applied to school fundraisers," The Hill reports.

The federal food police need to stay out of our schools, Poe said in a statement. First, the regulators came into our lunchrooms, then vending machines and now school fundraisers."

And not everyone is rolling over and taking it. South Carolina has announced that it will approve waivers from the smart-snacks requirement for fundraisers.

Fundraisers provide vital income for extracurricular activities that are also essential for our childrens development, such as band, sports and field trips, wrote Molly Spearman, South Carolina state superintendent of education, in a statement last month.

We need a reasonable balance that does not prohibit school districts from exercising their discretion to permit infrequent fundraisers that include foods that do not meet the Smart Snacks requirements, such as bake sales or special treats sold by student organizations, Spearman added.

But schools that want to do bake sales in South Carolina would still need to navigate some hoops.

"The application should include details of the request," Spearman wrote, "the school principals signature, and certification by the school district superintendent and board chair that the additional exemptions would not violate board policy, including the districts wellness policy required by S.C. Code 59-10-330. Applications should be emailed at least 15 business days before the anticipated fundraising event to allow sufficient time for the SCDEs review and notification of its decision."