A few people have asked me to write about the Bake-In Rally that parents are organizing at City Hall on Thursday, March 18th. While I like taking a good jab at the NYC DOE as much as the next guy, I'm pointing my elbows at a slightly different target this time.
Recently, there have been several cases of parents getting up in arms over issues spawned by headlines that seem to be written for the sole purpose of provoking us...and us falling for it. And, thanks to yet another misleading NY Times headline, many parents have been riled up again, in this case, to believe that not only are they not allowed to sell home baked goods at school bake sales, but that they are required to sell packaged goods like Frito Lay products and Pop Tarts. This is just not the case.
While the headline of the NY Times story on the new Bake Sale regulation clearly states, "No Brownies at Bake Sales," if you read the article carefully, past the headline and the lede, it says:
Under the new rules, students may sell fresh fruits and vegetables, or one of 27 specific packaged items that have been approved for sales in city vending machines, between the start of school and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The same goes for parent groups, except for an exception carved out for one no-brownies-barred Parent Teacher Association bake sale during the school day per month.
Now, admittedly, this paragraph is not very clearly written with its double negative and all (though who am I to talk, I'm just a blogger), but what that paragraph says is that schools can host one bake sale per month where home baked goods are sold and as many sales as they want where fresh fruits, vegetables and items from the approved list of packaged goods are sold.
While parents may not like the idea of the DOE approving products like baked Doritos and limiting the sale of home baked goods, the packaged products are already for sale at any school that has vending machines (no elementary schools are allowed to have vending machines). This regulation does not in any way promote or increase the amount of packaged goods available at schools.
Limiting bake sales may seem like a silly thing to focus on (I'd much rather see better quality foods and organic milk in the school lunches), but I appreciate that the DOE is trying to bring a focus to the food our children eat in school. Our kids get a high percentage, if not a majority, of their calories while in school. They have lunch, snack and, possibly, breakfast at school. Then there are those in-class birthday party cupcakes (with 28 kids in a class, that can occur more than twice a month). When you think about it, the DOE may be feeding your kid more than you are.
Frankly, it annoys me that my kids get so much junk food at school and I think once a month is a completely reasonable limit for bake sales. I don't need my kids having brownies and chocolate chip cookies for breakfast more than once a month, home-made or not.
I applaud the parents who are responding to the DOE. I hope that this will lead to continued attention and discussions about what foods are being served to our children while they are at school. But, while it may seem ridiculous that the DOE is condoning low fat pop tarts and saying no to bake sale brownies, in practice this should not affect school communities that are already using bake sales in a reasonable way. Despite the hype, PTAs can have their cake (sales) and eat it too...but only once a month.
For those that are interested, I've included the section of the new DOE regulation pertaining to bake sales:
In addition to the meals provided through the School Meals Program, other “competitive” foods are also made available to students during the school day through vending machines, school stores, and bake sales. In an effort to ensure the nutritional quality of this food, DoE published Chancellor Regulation A-812, which places the following restrictions on all competitive foods:
• Only foods and beverages approved by SchoolFood may be sold to students during the school day. A list identifying the approved snack items (e.g., low-fat snacks) is made available on the SchoolFood website.
• The schools are not allowed to sell any food, whether in vending machines, school stores, or otherwise, that competes with the School Meals Program from the beginning of the school day until the end of the last lunch period.
• The food sold at fundraising events does not have to meet SchoolFood’s requirements; however, such events are limited to one per month per school.
• While Regulation A-812 is not intended to limit the sale of food and beverages in lounges or other space only accessible to teachers and school staff, school administrators must ensure that students are not afforded access to vending machines or other items for sale at these locations.