Remember those candy bars your high school asked you to sell as a fundraiser?
Well, the Obama administration is pushing today’s students to peddle sugar-free dried fruit or whole wheat crackers instead.
This fall, schools will have to comply with a law that aims to make school food standards healthier. While that arguably makes good sense when it comes to the lunch options students get on a daily basis, here’s the catch - the new standards also apply to fundraisers held on school campuses.
With that in mind, here are five things you might remember fondly from your school days that are headed for the dumpster.
1. The pizza the women’s basketball team wants to sell to pay for the bus to nationals? Nope.
Try pre-packed apple slices instead.
2. The donut breakfast the chess club always hosts at the start of the year?
Hope you like nonfat Greek yogurt (John Stamos NOT included).
3. The Girl Scout cookies that drive students and parents alike into a frenzy each year?
In some schools, those troops will be begging the juniors and seniors to let them wash their cars instead.
4. Cheerleading team bake sales to foot the bill for new uniforms?
It’s nearly impossible to get an exact handle on the nutritional value of a homemade muffin, so say goodbye to those. How about a used book sale?
5. The soda the senior class wants to sell to pay for prom?
Naw, but they can sell water bottles!
To be fair, states have some flexibility with the rules, and childhood obesity is no joke. There are four times as many obese kids now than a generation ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
First Lady Michelle Obama has been the public face of the administration’s healthy food push. In 2009, she tried to make the case that carrots can be just as tasty as candy.
“[W]hen you’re dealing with kids, for example, you want to get them to try that carrot. Well, if it tastes like a real carrot and it’s really sweet, they’re going to think that it’s a piece of candy. So my kids are more inclined to try different vegetables if they’re fresh and local and delicious.”
Whether or not that’s true - we know some kids who would be skeptical - eating healthy foods like fresh produce and whole grains is prohibitively expensive for some families.
Consider this case: A writer for Babble recently took a homeless mother shopping. The mother was ecstatic about the opportunity to buy fresh fruit, which she said she rarely could afford.
A bag of apples, that, according to the author, would be enough for two snacks for a family of three? $11.45.
A small bag of cherries? $6.38.
A single snack-size carton of blueberries? $3.98.
As the writer points out, “If $11 of apples equals two snacks but $3 in Ramen will feed her entire family for dinner, how can she possibly pick apples with her limited food stamp budget?”
Four avocados will eat up more than an hour of minimum-wage work. But the bag of Tostitos that will long outlast that guacamole? Just $2.50.
One reason chips, cookies and other processed gunk are so much cheaper than fresh produce is because the government has heavily subsidized the corn and soy products that often comprise their base. The fresh veggies and fruits the government says it would like you to eat more of, on the other hand, have received very little in the way of federal support.
Thank you Beltway politics and bureaucracy.
The upshot is, next time your little sister tells you there is a fundraiser for the band, be prepared to shell out more than the buck your mom used to toss you for that cupcake. You’ll probably need at least a fiver for those carrot sticks.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.