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Ban on Bake Sales at NYC Schools?

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.”

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  • Rita
    March 18, 2010

    I live in north central Indiana and we have not been allowed home baked goods for years. Not for birthdays or for any other reason. I do miss sharing my goodies. This began because of the threat of poisons put into food by a deranged person. Just thought you might want to know. All food must be prepackaged.

  • Rita
    March 18, 2010

    Silly me, forgot to mention that I teach first grade and I am talking about the school system I teach in. 🙂

  • jill
    March 18, 2010

    Not shocking coming from NYC. What a shame. Just goes to show you how the goverment thinks they can handle everything better then you, including what we eat. SCARY!!!!!

  • Lauren
    March 18, 2010

    It’s so sad that a processed & pre-packaged product is viewed as preferable to a homemade treat. I’m willing to bet that the “27 approved packaged foods” are laden with unpronounceable ingredients. For the NYC city council to truly promote more healthful bake sales, they would ask home bakers to use unrefined sweeteners (and less of them), whole grain flours, and low-fat replacements for oil (yogurt, applesauce, pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree etc.); as well as selling the treats in reasonable portion sizes.

    School districts should put more energy/attention into offering their students more wholesome and appealing school lunches – food that the student body eats everyday rather than just once in a while.

  • Sue
    March 18, 2010

    Homemade goods at bake sales is NOT the problem! The problem is the obsession with food, starting with toddlers. When I was a kid food was not the focus and since it HAS been kids are getting(supposedly)getting bigger and bigger, instead of smaller. When we were little we ran around all day and played, rode bikes, skated, etc., etc…Seems now most kids play video games and sit at the computer:(

  • Sophia
    March 18, 2010

    Oh good grief!

  • Noel
    March 18, 2010

    Processed food is horrible and is often related to childhood obesity. I am so saddened by this, as I am saddened by the fact that so few people cook and bake at all anymore. Eating foods you create is the normal way of things.

  • dana828
    March 18, 2010

    This is ridiculous. Do the “powers that be” in NY really think that any packaged, processed treat, with it’s myriad of unpronounceable ingredients, is a better offering than treats made at home using real ingredients like butter & sugar? There is no HFCS in the stuff I bake at home. Their hearts are in the right place, but their heads are not.

  • Brentwood
    March 18, 2010

    Rice krispy treats were one of my main food groups growing up. Limiting their availability at school bake sales seems almost criminal.

  • Stef
    March 18, 2010

    Great post! The whole thing makes me so mad!

  • WV Girl
    March 18, 2010

    I think some of the concern stems from allergens in foods. How many of us are diligent in ensuring there are no peanut products in the chocolate, flavorings, etc? I can somewhat understand this issue but it’s still disheartening.

  • Ginny Kochis
    March 19, 2010

    What in the world every happened to personal responsibility, not to mention eating in moderation? I understand we are dealing with kids here, but really. Limited bakes sales with pre-fab items? I’m appalled. Like a child is going to read a nutrition label, anyway. Please. I’m so tired of this nanny state mentality.

  • Ginny Kochis
    March 19, 2010

    Sorry for the typo in my previous comment – that should be “what in the world *ever* happened to personal responsibility”…

  • Emily
    March 19, 2010

    Great post! Really well said!

  • Teresa
    March 19, 2010

    I think banning bake sales is just downright un-American! How do you like that NYC council and all other government entities?

  • Lisa
    March 19, 2010

    what is a REAL shame is that the school system could have used this as an opportunity to teach families that “you can have your cake and eat it too,” by requiring, for example, that they use part whole wheat flour, look for recipes that have lower-than-average sugar content, encourage folks to incorporate ingredients like dried fruits, oatmeal, etc. I understand the concern about obesity, but wouldn’t it make sense to try and educate the community that sweet treats can be made a bit healthier and STILL delicious?

  • SueBE
    March 19, 2010

    We live in Missouri. No home-baked good for birthdays or bake sales. Only packaged blah “goodies” off the approved list. All for healthy eating but then they sell cookie dough as a fund raiser. Talk about mixed messages. My son boycotted the cookie dough sale this year for just that reason. And, yes, it was his idea.


  • Jay
    March 19, 2010

    It’s amazing how the government thinks they’re protecting us, when all they’re doing is trying to control us. I do not think we need them to tell us how to live, nor, how to eat. We should be able to control our own lives and be responsible for ourselves individually.

    You’re right that baking is a fun family activity. I also think it’s fun to bake for charity and let others enjoy your food. As long as the person who made the treats can cook or bake.

    I do not believe this type of thinking will reduce obesity. People and children will still eat the same way, but with less flavor.

    Thanks for having a great baking blog site.

  • Maggi
    March 20, 2010

    Why don’t they kill two birds with one stone and have the baked goods that are supplied to bake sales baked “in house” by the students as part of a Home Economics/Cooking/Food Science activity? The students learn something, the teachers can ensure that the proper ingredients (peanut-free etc.) are used and they can even have a math lesson involved if the students figure out the nutritional values of the baked goods being offered.

    But that would make too much sense, now wouldn’t it?

  • Amanda
    March 22, 2010

    Speaking as a New Yorker, what truly terrifies me is that the items that are approved include foods like Poptarts. How is purchasing a handfull of Poptarts better for children than buying a home made brownie? This is not the school system that I want my son educated in. They are failing our children in everyway possible.

    All Hail Emperor Bloomberg who knows so much better than we how to care for ourselves and our children.

  • Nutrition bachelor
    May 4, 2010

    Is there anything nutrition labels can’t do? They brag about the fiber in cereal, urge us to see the health benefits of mayo, and now they even alert us to the ways that breakfast cereal can keep us safe from swine flu!

  • Jimmy
    June 2, 2010

    I agree wholeheartedly!! Disallowing bake sales isn’t the cause of obesity anyway!! I find it hard to believe that bake sales and baking is the cause of obesity. It’s lack, primarily of exercise and movement. Technology/games and various other lathargic activities assist in the obesity issue. I am not saying that nutrition isn’t important but everything in moderation. Secondly, why are officials voted in by the people making these decisions when they are unwanted? Is this not a democratic society we live in? How can a group decide what is better for us as adults that can take care of our children? How can somebody make decisions for us that bring families closer together when the family unit is already, at times, in trouble? Crazy world we live in!! One more point, the sales provide funding for extracurricular activities or clubs that otherwise wouldn’t recieve monies from political institutions. Isn’t it ironic that political and educational institutions won’t provide monies for clubs or events that bring kids together and make them active (sports), but they also won’t allow them to fundraise through baking/selling products to get the monies they need to either maintain equipment, pay for referees, whatever!! This might be a bad example but if somebody takes away my house and then tells me I can’t work what would they like me to do??It doesn’t make any sense!!

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