August 22, 2006
By ANN MARIE SOMMA, Courant Staff Writer
School bake sales could soon be history.
Districts across the state are deciding whether to ban the traditional PTO fundraisers - and any other sale of fatty, sugary snacks - in exchange for a 10-cent-per-meal reimbursement from the state Department of Education.
Fatty and sugary snacks will be pulled out of vending machines and school stores in school districts that adopt stricter guidelines in exchange for extra money from the state. Pre-packaged snacks acceptable for sale under the guidelines include:
Frito Lay Baked Doritos
Bachman Pretzel Stix
General Mills Chex Mix Trail Mix
Keebler Sunshine Cheez-It Reduced Fat Crackers
Kraft Back To Nature Crispy Wheats
Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs Wheat Thins Thin Crisps
General Mills Nature Valley Granola Bar - Oats & Honey
Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bars
Nabisco Animal Crackers
Pepperidge Farms Goldfish PhysEdibles
Power Bar Energy Bites
Source: Connecticut Department of Education. A complete list can be seen at: www.state.ct.us
A state law passed earlier this year already bans soda from being sold in schools. The state incentive is meant to encourage districts to go beyond that.
Under Public Act 06-63, snacks that do not meet the state's nutritional guidelines for fat and sugar content cannot be sold in schools that sign up for the program.
Some districts, including Canton, Cheshire and Fairfield, have already opted to ban bake sales.
"Unless you make a cupcake with granola, it doesn't meet the nutritional guidelines," said Madeleine Diker, food service director with Cheshire public schools.
Diker said the district stands to receive $40,000 a year through the program, which pays 10 cents for every free- and reduced-price meal served in the district.
Larger, less-affluent districts such as Hartford, where two-thirds of the students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, stand to see much larger reimbursements. Districts must use the reimbursement to fund their food service programs, and local boards of education must agree to participate in the program.
The state has compiled a 175-page list of what complies with the reimbursement guidelines. It specifies the fat and sugar contents for acceptable snacks and deserts:
Fat can account for no more than 35 percent of total calories, with a maximum of seven grams of fat per serving;
Saturated and trans-fat can account for no more than 10 percent of calories, with a maximum of 2 grams of fat per serving.
Added sugars can account for no more than 35 percent of a serving's weight and no more than 15 grams of added sugars are permitted per serving.
Nuts and fruit, naturally high in fat and sugar, are exempt.
The guidelines are part of a larger document called the Connecticut Nutrition Standards that some districts say they are still trying to understand.
"It's crazy, you can't sell anything to children unless it's on the approved list," said Jordan E. Grossman, principal of Canton Intermediate School.
The Canton school district will ban bake sales in January. In the meantime, it will try to comply with the program by supervising bake sales and holding creative fundraisers.
The state is mailing letters to district superintendents this week explaining the reimbursement program. The state also has held training sessions, and it offers ideas for healthy food fundraising alternatives such frozen bananas and trail mix.
"We aren't limiting choices, we are providing healthier choices," said Charlene Russell-Tucker, chief of the DOE's bureau of health and nutrition services.
Birthday cupcakes and pizza parties, where food is offered but not sold, could survive if a district decides to adopt a "wellness policy" that allows them. Federal regulations require each district to have a policy in place that spells out the details.
Rocky Hill officials said the standards are so complicated that it might not be worth the extra dime.
"We are doing our best to teach children proper nutrition, but there has to be balance and common sense. We need to understand what the implications are if we go for the extra dime," said School Superintendent J.A. Camille Vautour.
Joanne Fitzpatrick, manager of the Fairfield school district's food and nutrition services, said the district sees the program as a way to offset any losses to its food service program caused by the added expense of preparing more nutritious meals.
"If it's going to help improve the health of our students, then it's worth it," Fitzpatrick said.
The Fairfield Board of Education is expected to approve the program tonight.
The program gives districts some flexibility. School boards can vote to allow foods that don't meet the nutritional guidelines to be sold in certain situations; for example, if the sale takes place at an event after school or on the weekend.
While some districts have already decided to sign up, others will meet with PTO groups and parents before making a decision.
The reimbursement program is separate from requirements in the federal Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2004, which requires schools that receive federal funds for meals to adopt nutrition standards and craft wellness policies.
Many districts have wellness policies that prevent teachers from giving out candy to students as a reward and even monitor the time students spend in recess to help curb childhood obesity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 9 million children in the U.S. are considered obese.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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