NYC schools: No home cookies, more Pop Tarts

Topics: Nutrition, New York City, Obesity, Food,

A version of this post previously appeared on Linda Shiue’s Open Salon blog.

Does this make any sense?

New York City’s Department of Education made headlines last October when it voted to ban bake sales for school fundraisers, citing nutritional concerns with the sugar and fat content of most baked goods. At that time, parents were upset over the decline in fundraising revenue that ban would cause, but the principle of fighting childhood obesity was hard to argue with.

Yesterday, the Department of Education shifted its policy — not to re-allow homebaked goods, not even zucchini bread, but to allow the sale of certain packaged snacks meeting nutritional guidelines. The guidelines specify that these snacks must in in single serving packages, have a calorie content of 200 calories or less, with less than 35% of those calories from sugar or fat, and cannot contain artificial sweeteners.

The argument is the inability to quantify the fat and sugar content of homemade treats, versus the nutrition information that is available for packaged snacks. This new policy was issued to address the concerns of parent and student groups who found themselves unable to fundraise without bake sales.

You’d be shocked at what meets the guidelines: certain flavors of Pop Tarts, Doritos, and Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars make the cut. Per the New York Times,

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.

Students interviewed by the NYT were not pleased with this compromise. Even from a fundraising point of view, one student commented that the changes would not be enough:

“With the packaged goods, half the profits are going to the companies,” said Anya Lehr, a senior at LaGuardia High School for the Arts. Her club, Model U.N., she said, was having trouble raising the $200 it costs per student to compete at the United Nations. A good bake sale, she said, used to earn up to $500 per day.

Still, the policy was approved unanimously. This, despite the fact that administrators themselves weren’t even convinced of the nutritional value being put forward

Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor who oversees the regulation, told members of the panel that the permitted snacks were not “necessarily foods we recommend that students eat.”

Does anyone smell a rat?

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