In the name of the greater campaign to fight childhood obesity, the New York City City Council is heavily restricting the number of bake sales that can take place at New York City Schools. Their stance is that homemade rice krispy treats, pumpkin bread and cupcakes aren’t a part of “the wellness puzzle” as they see it. Instead, the products that will be permitted to be sold at schools must come from a list of 27 packaged foods that meet city health department guidelines.
PTA members are strongly against this idea, which will restrict sales to once a month or in the late evenings (when parents are probably coming to schools for meetings and very few children are present), because the money that these frequently held sales pay for lots of extracurricular programs that there is no money in the school budget for. Baking is also a great family activity, getting parents and kids together at home, working together, to support their community and their schools.
I’m all for home baking, of course, and the thing that strikes me the most about this issue is also something that struck Laura Shapiro, a food historian and author, in the article: “[W]e’re supposed to believe that a packaged chocolate-chip cookie is preferable to a homemade one, not on the basis of taste, texture or the quality of the ingredients, but because it came from a factory and has a nutrition label.”
I don’t think that the presence of a nutrition label keeps anyone from getting fat, since so many things are labeled these days – and if it did, obesity would not be nearly as prevalent as it is. But even worse than banning the bake sales is the fact that the City Council is – whether they intend to or not – discouraging an activity that encourages families to bond together at home, and encourages kids to develop a respect for the food that they’re eating because they can take pride in the fact that they made it themselves. I bake because I love it, but having a bake sale – and therefore having something to support and a deadline to meet – encourages lots more people to get into the kitchen and take time that they otherwise might not to bake together.
And I think that’s a lot more wholesome than taking a trip to the grocery store for some packaged cookies that meet an arbitrary standard of perceived “wellness.”