How Far is 'Too Far' When it Comes to School Nutrition Rules?

Who doesn't love grandma's homemade double chocolate chip brownies? Sharing — and showing off — your family's recipes was always the highlight of my fundraising experiences. But not so fast: new government rules requiring healthier options at schools may mean saying goodbye to the days of bake sale fundraisers.

Mnet 141453 Bake Sale Lead

Who doesn't love grandma's homemade double chocolate chip brownies? Just the thought of the melted fudge oozing out of the middle as you take the first bite is enough to send anyone's taste buds in to overdrive.

As a child, bringing those goodies to the school bake sale was a big deal. Sharing — and showing off — your family's recipes was always the highlight of my fundraising experiences.

But not so fast: new government rules requiring healthier options at schools may mean saying goodbye to the days of bake sale fundraisers.

In a previous blog, I mentioned how schools have changed significantly over the years. While some changes are due to technological advances, many are due to the rising numbers of food allergies and obesity rates in children.

For example, according to the Center for Disease Control's recent report, food allergies among children increased 50 percent from 1997 to 2011.

But the change I am referring to are the school nutrition rules put in place by the Agriculture Department. The rules, which kicked off last summer, require all foods sold in schools to meet certain nutrition standards. 

The fundraiser standards, which were passed by Congress in 2010, are part of the larger government efforts championed by First Lady Michelle Obama to provide only healthy food options in schools.

The idea behind the regulations is to prevent frequent junk-food fundraisers from happening. Health officials say the bake sale only fills up kids with sugared food items and diverts them from the healthier food options offered in the cafeterias.

While many schools have been successful in swapping unhealthy foods for more nutritious offerings, not everyone seems to be on board.

Missy Latham, a parent in Greensville, South Carolina, recently told the Associated Press, "It's kind of absurd that one week a year you couldn't sell something like that without the government mandating that its OK."

Latham says bake sales are a profitable part of the "spirit week" celebrations in her school district.

Some schools have even taken measures to push back. Last summer, Georgia decided that each school was allowed 30 fundraisers a year that did not have to meet the nutrition standards. The school officials called the federal rules an "overreach."

Other schools, though, have found success with the new regulations. Susan Fox Pinkowitz said she helped her children's elementary school, University Park Elementary, in Denver, move from the annual candy-filled carnival to one that offers apples and protein bars. She said the new fundraiser has brought in nearly $12,000 annually, almost four times the amount that was raised by the previous event.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I am all for healthier food options, but I also believe it should be just that: an option.

I can see how the new regulations could be a benefit in lowering the obesity numbers in children, but I also think this approach may be taking it a bit too far. What do you think? Do you agree with the federal nutrition regulations in schools or do you think it could be a bit more relaxed?

More in Home