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The Demise of the School Bake Sale

October 5, 2009

The New York Times  published a story this weekend about NYC’s latest public health regulation – a ban on most school bake sales. For those of you who don’t know, NYC has made bold public health movements over the past few years, including regulation of trans fats and sodium in foods and creation of a menu labeling policy that many states and cities have since replicated.  

The latest ban on school bake sales, one of the strictest of its kind in the country, is part of a new school wellness policy in NYC that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, according to the article.

Reaction to the change is, naturally, mixed. On the one hand, approximately 40 percent of NYC’s elementary and middle school students are overweight or obese. The city’s department of education also found a correlation between student health and performance on standardized tests.

However, the school bake sale is a long-standing tradition – and a lucrative one at that. One NYC principal said that a typical weekday bake sale could bring in close to $500 in profit – and kids and school administrators count on these funds to supply uniforms, field trips, proms, and other school-related activities. On top of that, the policy also requires that vending machines, which generate millions of dollars for school sports, be supplied with healthy snacks.

NYC isn’t the only place where crackdowns on unhealthy foods in schools are gaining momentum. The CDC published a study today that found that fewer secondary schools in the U.S. are selling unhealthy foods and beverages, like candy and soda. According to the study, the greatest improvements were seen in states that have adopted strong nutrition standards and policies for foods and beverages sold outside school meal programs (such as the one in NYC).

According to the CDC and public health advocates nationwide, ensuring that only healthy options are available in schools will positively influence children’s food choices and help them establish lifelong healthy eating habits.

Such a result is critically important as the nation’s childhood obesity rate continues to rise and children continue to report not meeting daily nutritional guidelines. For example, a recent CDC study found that only 32 percent of high school students are getting the recommended daily intake of fruit (at least 2 servings per day) and only 13 percent are eating enough vegetables (at least 3 servings per day).

Let’s hope that these new policies can truly effect change in our children’s eating habits.

What are your thoughts?

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