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Fundraising and Wellness Policies

by the AFRDS


For decades, schools, sports leagues and youth groups have kicked off the fall season by selling candy to pay for items and programs not covered by shrinking school budgets — such as new playground equipment, computer labs, band uniforms and after-school reading programs, just to name a few. Today, candy still is one of the most popular items sold to raise funds, and makes up a large share of the $1.4 billion raised each year by school groups through product sales. However in recent years, candy sales in schools have come under scrutiny with new government mandated wellness policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity. To date, no state has passed any law prohibiting the sale of candy as part of a school fundraiser conducted off campus. However, many individual school districts are now required to have their own wellness policies, which may go beyond the states’ regulations. With so many people creating so many rules, it’s easy to understand why fundraising sponsors and school administrators are sometimes confused while trying to understand and comply with these new policies. Some parent-teacher group leaders are struggling with striking a balance between following the new guidelines while, at the same time, avoiding losing vital fundraising revenue.

“I’m confused by the whole policy,” Bobbi Jo Brown, a PTO president at an elementary school in Hanover, Pennsylvania, recently told a local reporter. “I understand as far as childhood obesity goes that they want to get a handle on it. But, it all starts at home.”

The new school-district wellness policies are based on a Congressional mandate that requires all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to have in place a “local school wellness policy” that, among other things, provides nutritional guidelines for foods sold on-campus, during the school day. Most of these new policies do not conflict with school group fundraising because lawmakers and school authorities realize that most of the candy sold by school groups is not sold to students for consumption at school. Rather they are sold to family members and friends – mostly adults – off school grounds.

“The ideal school wellness policy will focus on improved nutrition education and physical education,” according to Dr. Susan Finn, a registered dietician. “It will promote physical activity. It will involve nutritionists and dieticians educating teachers so that they can then educate their students with accurate information. It will turn school cafeterias into laboratories for [nutritional] learning.”

Finn is chair of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, a group of food and beverage companies, not-for-profit organizations, and trade associations working together to improve the health of Americans – particularly youth – by encouraging a healthy balance between fitness and nutrition. Finn does not believe restrictions on off-campus fundraising sales will help combat childhood obesity.

“It isn’t about banning foods,” she said. Finn believes schools need to focus on the positives – and instead of restricting certain foods, use them as an opportunity to teach students that all foods have a place in the diet, if consumed in moderation and in combination with exercise.

For more information on state wellness policies, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website at usda.gov. Also visit the website for the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition at acfn.org

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About the Author: This article is from the Fall 2006 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund Raisers and Direct Sellers and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at afrds.org for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

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