Beyond Peanut Brittle: Successful Fundraising Without Junk Food

September 18, 2007

by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

Last week, I went to the first PTA meeting of the school year. The lineup of PTA sponsored activities planned for my son’s school this year sounds really, really cool: The PTA will fund visiting artists, musicians for performances and even a mosaic artist who will create a mural for a new amphitheater. Wow! It’s wonderful that children at our neighborhood school will have access to all of these opportunities and resources.

As the meeting continued, it became clear that it takes a lot of hard work to raise the funds necessary to support these enrichment opportunities. We were encouraged to shop at Target, collect box tops, buy school spirit wear, participate in the annual silent auction, and purchase wrapping paper, home gifts and “gourmet edibles” from a company that structures its product sales for school fund-raisers.   

The “edibles” for sale include “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle,” “Chocolate Delight Caramel Popcorn,” “Peppermint Stick Creams,”. . . the list goes on! For me, this sends the wrong message to my son and his schoolmates.

Enlisting school children to sell junk food undermines the education that parents, teachers, food service directors, school nurses and many others in our school community are sending about the importance of healthy eating.

According to Margo Wootan, public policy director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Health-conscious parents have a hard enough time without schools pressuring their children to buy even more junk food to help pay for their own education.”

“Why put parents in that position,” she asks, “when there are perfectly good fund-raisers that don’t jeopardize children’s health?”

I’ll suggest to our PTA’s Ways and Means Committee that instead of selling chewy chocolate caramels, they consider some of the good options for fund-raising without junk food:

  • Book fairs. The publishing company Scholastic, for example, sponsors more than 100,000 book fairs per year, which promote literacy in addition to raising funds.
  • Scrip and grocery store fund-raisers. eScrip is a gift card for use at local retail stores, which schools purchase at a discount. Many grocery chains have programs that disburse a percentage of shopper’s purchases to a school they designate.
  • Recycling fund-raisers. Used cell phones, empty printer cartridges, and even re-usable clothing can all be collected by schools in exchange for cash. Millions of printer cartridges are thrown away each year, yet schools can earn between $.06 and $2.20 per cartridge, depending on the model.

For more non-food fund-raising ideas, check out the Documents & Resources section of  HSC’s Quick & Easy Guide to School Wellness.

What non-food fund-raisers have worked for you? If you have any ideas, please send them my way!