Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Bake Sale Regs Frustrate Students

Restricts Fundraisers Held by Clubs and Teams

By Conor Greene

Fundraising efforts for public school clubs and sports teams has been severely hampered by a new chancellor’s regulation banning bake sales during lunch periods. A group of students representing nearly a dozen schools citywide have launched a petition drive in response to the new rules, which they say were implemented without warning.

Whitestone resident and Bronx High School of Science student Matthew Melore recently attended a Community Board 5 meeting with colleague Seth Hoffman to spread word about the new regulation, and the impact it is having on students. Fundraisers involving food are now only allowed during non-lunch periods, and since most students don’t have free periods at that time, it is difficult for clubs and teams to have enough members available to hold a bake sale, or make money due to the lack of hallway foot traffic.

“There is a better way of getting healthy foods to students than getting rid of bake sales, which we need for clubs and teams to raise money,” said Melore. “It’s had a really big impact on clubs, which have to come up with other ways, or they run out of money.”

The problem has impacted sports teams, especially at smaller schools where funding has been cut or eliminated in recent years. As a result of those budget cuts, sports teams at smaller schools have relied on fundraisers to pay for equipment and other costs.

Adding insult to injury, said Melore, is that the new regulations were passed in the summer, at which time approval from the Panel on Educational Policy was not required. In addition, many schools, including his, were not even aware of the new rules until September, by which time clubs and teams had budgeted for the year based on expected bake sale revenues.

“It was passed without warning,” said Melore. “Getting rid of bake sales and fundraisers is not solving the problem. A cupcake once in a while is not a bad thing to do, and most of the food that students get that’s bad, they get at home, not at school… In my opinion, and many others, the regulation that was passed is not even legitimate.” He notes that it was “hastily written” before mayoral control of schools expired, and was “enacted in such a haste that the Nutritional Guidelines that were a key part of the legislation were not even incorporated until late October.”

After hearing from the students, Community Board 5 passed a resolution supporting their petition drive. So far, Melore and Hoffman have visited three boards, and in all, students from 11 schools have collected 5,000 signatures on the petitions. The students’ goal, said Melore, is to convince officials that the rules should be revised so that bake sales can be regulated, but still provide students with a way to fund raise for teams and clubs.

In a statement, a Department of Education spokesman said that the new rules were co-developed with the Department of Health and represents an important step in combating childhood obesity and ensuring that students develop healthy eating habits. “The city and country are confronting an obesity epidemic the proportions of which are difficult to overstate,” the spokesman wrote. “It is our responsibility to make sure schools are a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

At the same time, the DOE is working to increase students’ access to athletic programs, expand physical fitness education in schools and make sure the city’s school lunches are some of the most nutritious in the country, the spokesman added. However, recognizing that the policy “might affect students’ and parents’ ability to raise money for their schools,” the DOE is “in the process of working with the Department of Health to see how we can maintain our commitment to combating obesity without putting onerous restrictions on student fundraisers.”

Another aspect of the new wellness policy involves a new city contract for school vending machines, the department noted. In October, the school board approved two new contracts for machines that will only sell foods and beverages that meet strict nutritional guidelines. The millions of dollars in revenue that the machines will produce will help fund the city’s middle and high school athletic leagues, the spokesman said.

No comments: