The Cookie Crumbles: Banning School Bake Sales

December 2nd, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Opponents say the PTA staple is nutritionally irresponsible.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

You can have your cake and eat it too in California, but if you do so at a school bake sale, you might be breaking the law.

Tough new government nutrition standards that are being enforced in public schools state-wide are eliminating foods that can be sold on-site during the school day. Long-time bake sale favorites like cookies and cupcakes are disappearing because they exceed legally-mandated limits on sugar, fat and calories.

Comfort food is suddenly being wrapped in uncomfortable language like nutritional disobedience and competitive foods, as policy makers try to reduce unhealthy consumption to "do for junk food what smoking bans and taxes did for tobacco" according to one health scientist.

"The intent of the legislation was not to eliminate bake sales, but to improve the quality of food that’s available to students," said the policy director of the California Center for Public Advocacy, one of the sponsors of the legislation. "Schools were financially dependent on selling food to kids that was fundamentally bad for them."

But opponents of the culinary crackdown say it’s half-baked. "Bake sales are one of the quickest and easiest ways for schools to raise money," said the president of one local California PTA. "To limit this option has a significant impact on fundraising. And as a parent, it should really be my choice if I want to buy my child a cookie or slice of pizza after school."

While a California kindergarten offered a “Healthy Halloween vegetable platter,” as a trick-or-treat alternative, one critic questioned the larger impact of a cupcake prohibition. "Children should learn that there are many foods available, and the responsibility is theirs to choose the best and healthiest foods. Instead, through limiting their choices, we are teaching them to blindly trust whatever is placed before them and to forego individual responsibility."

Tell us what you think: Have bake sales become nutritionally irresponsible dinosaurs? What should take priority—raising healthier children or letting them eat cake?