Beyond the Bake Sale: Healthy Fundraising in Chicago Public Schools

September 18, 2014

Fun and healthy ways to fundraise

Since 2012, schools across Chicago have been moving beyond the bake sale with innovative and healthy school fundraising strategies. This move was sparked by Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) district-wide snack and beverage policy requiring that all competitive foods sold within schools — meaning foods sold in vending machines, a la carte lines, school stores and as part of school fundraisers — must be healthy.

This school year, a policy similar to that within CPS — the USDA’s Smart Snacks rule — is now national law. The good news for CPS is that the district had a headstart on the national policy, meaning that CPS is once again leading the way in school health. As a result, other schools across the country can learn from the progress made by forward-thinking school leaders in Chicago.

A staple of school fundraising has long been the sale of sugary treats, such as candy and baked goods. We know these funds often go toward important causes such as class trips, sports programs or purchases of school supplies. This is important stuff.

Rather than think of the fundraising rules as being restrictive or heavy handed, we’ve worked with numerous schools in Chicago that have found creative, fun and healthy ways to create non-food fundraisers. Many have found these engaging strategies are actually more effective than traditional candy sales.

Let’s be clear: This is not a war against baked goods. Who doesn’t love a decadent brownie or chocolate chip cookie? The issue is delivering a consistent message to our kids about the types of foods and activities that will fuel their learning and health — from the lunchroom to the classroom and everywhere in between.

Here are a few examples of healthy and successful school fundraisers that have taken place in Chicago:

  • DuPrey Elementary sold student-made “Santa-grams” for Christmas and “Flower-grams” for Mothers Day. The school also sold tickets to a no-candy Halloween Fall Festival, where the eighth graders were tasked with creating activities and games for everyone.

  • The Chicago International Charter School Prairie Campus made healthy fundraising a family affair. Students were invited to participate in math skills-based games created by teachers, which families could then take home afterwards. Families paid $3 to participate. The school also hosts book fairs, both through the vendors and by asking for donated books which can be sold for 25 cents each.

  • Walsh Elementary hosts candle sales. Students sell candles for $10, with $5 of the profit going to the school.

  • At Madero Middle School, students can wear casual clothes instead of their uniforms for the day, with a donation of $1. Other non-food fundraisers include rummage sales.

  • Manuel Perez Elementary turns its gym into a carnival, with games, activities and prizes. Parents put together gift baskets for a raffle.

We also love a fundraising idea from Westwood Elementary in Woodstock, Ill. Students find five people to pledge $10 for the student to read 15 minutes per day. For every $2,000 raised, the principal pledged to spend an hour on the roof, reading to students! We wrote about this idea and more from around the country in a previous blog.

Whether you’re in Chicago or elsewhere across the country, we invite you to learn more about healthy celebrations and fundraising strategies by taking part in our remaining Fit to Learn webinars. These webinars feature Chicago principals who have not only survived but thrived under the new guidelines.

Join us on October 1 for Healthy Halloween: Strategies for Having a Fun and Healthy Halloween Celebration at School on October 21 for Beyond the Bake Sale: Effective and Healthy Fundraising Strategies .

For Chicago teachers, our Fit to Learn professional development program is available to help you learn more about healthy fundraising in CPS and other healthy classroom strategies. Contact Kristi Cox [link to email] at 312-419-1810 to learn more.