He ran to his room with a shiny limousine poster and four thumb tacks. My first grader had just returned home after a fundraiser assembly. He displayed the poster proudly above his bed. The catalog includes kitchen gear, gift wrap, frog shaped fudge, cheesecake, cookie dough, and cake rolls. He was excited, but I wanted to weep. Not about the new holes in the wall.
Right now I’m up to my neck in fundraising with kids at two schools. (Plus, a husband who works in public education and must fund raise for afterschool programs in the arts.) At my other kids’ school the big fundraiser includes frozen pies, cheesecakes, and cake rolls.
When I helped unload the pie truck last year I realized there needed to be change. The distributor recently added a line of powdered smoothie mixes. The packaging has pictures of fresh fruit. Uh, right. I read the ingredients and learned the product was merely sugar and artificial colors and flavors – for a pretty $16.00. I wanted to stand on the stage and reveal the product as a fraud.
Unhealthy fundraising is a big problem.
When we take a food product that is best enjoyed in moderation and attach a limousine – we’ve just undermined all of our efforts to teach moderation. There are no sparkly prizes for the kids who sell a moderate amount of sweets. Parents feel obligated to buy, regardless of their gluten-intolerance or junk-tolerance. Did I mention that my community has the highest rate of childhood obesity in the state of Colorado? We also have a statistically higher rate of overweight and obese adults and adults with diabetes than the rest of Colorado.
The heart of fundraising is purely to support students and student programs. I’m not sure when junk food hijacked this practical and philanthropic activity.
I stayed off the stage but started researching healthy options and success stories from other schools.
I don’t have a success story with either of my children’s schools.
I have an in-the-trenches-transitioning-hoping-fingers-crossed story. Changing school traditions is not an overnight process. I’ve pitched ideas to other parents and administrators. However, there is serious skepticism about change. It makes a lot of sense. The staff is understandably nervous about abandoning the pies and cookie dough. Those frozen assets bring in a consistent amount of money every year that supports field trips and classroom supplies.
I’m grateful for other schools that have successfully made the switch. We need plenty of examples. (Resources with examples at end of post.) In the meantime, I will to continue researching creative ideas that suit our community and rally like-minded parents.
If you’re dying to know what I bought from the limousine catalog, I’ll disclose. I bought a silicone baking mat and set of spatulas. If you’re also dying to know if I bought any pies, I’ll disclose. Both my husband and I made cash donations to the PTO. All profit, no product. I also had peace of mind.
I want my kids to feel comfortable raising money knowing that they aren’t undermining anyone’s health. No one in my house has been in a fundraising limo and I can live with that.
If you’re like me, and in the middle of a transition, here are a few ideas:
Divert to Convert.
Most of the time Sometimes people are turned off by health-talk. Instead, discuss the non-health related cons of perishable products like pizza kits, frozen pies, and cookie dough. Explain how the companies typically give a small profit margin. Explain the annoyance difficulty of distributing frozen products.
Seize the Moment. When you have the floor in a PTO meeting you need to take advantage of the attention. Don’t merely suggest change, but research logical options that seem to fit your community. Be positive.
Get Social. Ask friends on Facebook what their schools are doing for fundraising. Some people don’t even realize that their schools are doing “healthy” fundraiser. They have found something profitable and it just happens to be healthy. A friend I spoke with mentioned a fundraiser where the kids get to run laps in the hallways inside the school. (How cool is this!?!) Donors sponsor the runners and the staff plays music while each class runs laps for 20 minutes. The prize? A water bottle with the school logo for everyone. It’s financially successful, easy to set up, and the kids LOVE it.
It’s Time to Put and End to Junk Food Fundraising by Yoni Freedhoff in US News & World Report
Take the Healthy School Fundraiser Challenge by Stacy at School Bites
Healthy Fundraiser Ideas from Action for Healthy Kids
Healthy School Fundraising Success Stories from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Yes you Can! A Fresh Look at Healthy Fundraising for Schools from the New York City Department of Health