A New York Times article about the impact of California regulation of food sales during school hours draws widespread scorn.
"Don't mess with the bake sale fund raiser" was the most common response to a recent article in the New York Times about the decline of school bake sales after California enacted nutrition standards regulating what food can be sold to students during school hours. ("Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods," Patricia Leigh Brown, November 9, 2008)
The article picked up on one that appeared last month in the San Francisco Chronicle ("School bake sales victims of nutrition rules," Carolyn Jones, October 27, 2008).
But the two articles present contrasting perspectives. The New York Times article emphasized the regulation of consumption and gave considerable ink to those complaining about the guidelines. There was some of this in the San Francisco Chronicle piece, but there were also quotes from people claiming success for the new standards.
Most notable was a quote in the New York Times piece from Stephanie Bruce, identified as president of the California School Nutrition Association (a 501(c)(6) organization, EIN 95-2626680 Form 990), who expressed concern that the guidelines didn't "teach moderation." A number of commenters to the article picked up on this "moderation" theme.
But it seems to me that moderation is exactly what the guidelines implement, and exactly what the opponents reject. California Education Code Section 49431.2 simply requires that snacks sold in school should not have more than 35 percent of its calories from fat (no more than 10 percent from saturated fat) and no more than 35 percent of its total weight from sugar. It also sets a limit of no more than 250 calories per food item. Trouble is, the standard bake sale items like brownies and muffins far exceed these reasonable standards.
Closer to the truth is the Great American Bake Sale, a fund raiser for Share Our Strength (EIN 52-1367538 Form 990), which has as its chief corporate sponsors Domino and C&H Sugar. I've already written about the decline in food-related fund raising due to health concerns ("Girl Scouts Fib about Trans Fats (Legally)," January 27, 2007). It's declining, but it still has many advocates.
Yet charity fund raising often seems to get mixed up with mild forms of potentially unhealthy behavior, like gambling and drinking (bars are great places to hold charity fund raising events). So I suspect that bake sales will continue, and we'll continue to hear variations on the justification, "what's the harm, and anyway, it's for a good cause."