Fundraising That’s Good for Schools and for Kids’ Health

September 05, 2014

New rules under Smart Snacks

We love what happened one year at Westwood Elementary in Woodstock, Illinois. The school held a reading challenge, where kids were encouraged to find adults who would “sponsor” 15 minutes of their reading with a $10 pledge. The principal threw in his own challenge to motivate the kids. He promised to spend an hour reading to students on the roof of the building, for every $2,000 raised. Duly inspired to sell, sell, sell, the kids raised a whopping $7,000, and the principal spent an entire morning on the roof.

It’s a great story in its own right, but it’s also great because of what is missing — sweet treats such as doughnuts, pizza and candy bars, typical foods sold to raise money, weren’t even part of the equation. There are tons of ways to riff on this idea (math-a-thon, anyone?) and there are even more ways to completely rethink fundraising. In fact, this fall, the USDA’s “Smart Snacks” rules will go into effect, meaning that in many states, schools will have to ditch the doughnuts. Rules require that food sold within the school must meet minimum standards for nutrition.

“The Smart Snacks rules are a tremendous opportunity,” says Rochelle Davis, President and CEO of Healthy Schools Campaign. “They’re helping kids make healthy choices that will serve them for a lifetime. Research shows that schools must send consistent messages about the importance of good nutrition, and fundraising is an important piece of this puzzle.”

Remember, schools need to make the healthy choice the easy choice. That can be challenging, when carrots are competing with candy bars. And while some kids adore carrots, many are still learning the value of healthy eating. At times it’s just too easy to reach for the sweet treats.

The other opportunity — believe it or not — is monetary. Fundraising doesn’t have to include food. It can be reading on the roof. It can be a rummage sale. It can be a day where kids may skip their uniforms if they contribute $1. At Duprey Elementary in Chicago, kids sold “flower-grams” for Mother’s Day and “Santa-grams” for Christmas. Other schools sell student-created cookbooks, make their own fruit baskets or start their own car wash. And let’s not forget the walk-a-thon or 5k! Some schools are finding those much more lucrative than candy.

And don’t underestimate the power of selling fruits and veggies. On Chicago’s southwest side, a school involved in our Fit to Learn professional development program found a unique use for its large garden. The school grows pumpkins, squash and other autumn vegetables that are sold as part of a harvest fundraiser. Or — sell healthy snacks year-round. At the High School for Public Service in Brooklyn, N.Y., parents and faculty created a healthy school store .

Says parent coordinator Eric Ferreira, “Students run the store, and we are open at lunch and after school. We bought a freezer so we can stock fruit slushes, fruit bars and fruit cups. Last semester we had a profit of about $2,000!” Income is funding parent involvement and staff development initiatives. That’s definitely a win-win.

With all these options, it’s a great time for schools to re-think revenue. Here’s an overview of all the states and how they’re implementing the USDA’s new rules.

Ready to learn more and start a healthy fundraiser at your school? Check out our free webinar about healthy fundraising, on October 21.

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What’s your school doing, as new fundraising rules go into effect? Tell us on our Facebook page!