We understand the importance of limiting junk food in schools. We’ve extolled the virtues of a healthy diet and regular exercise in a slew of editorials in recent years, and the types of foods available at schools play a role in that effort.
We similarly appreciate the value of the Smart Snacks standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Those standards exist to restrict the amount of junk food available during the school day and to scale back competition with food services.
It’s unfortunate, however, that an exemption couldn’t have been made for student bake sales. At the least, the law could have allowed for a limited number of bake sales during a school year, in part because these bake sales often have merit that ought to be considered along with the calories their products contain.
The Interpersonal Skills Class at Manhattan High School, for example, has held bake sales for years. They’ve been regular, but hardly daily, affairs, usually involving some combination of chili, cookies and brownies. The class is enriched, but not monetarily. The sales help its members — special needs students and senior mentors — grow as individuals and raise money for worthy causes. Every year the class makes a large donation to the Adopt-a-Family program during the Christmas holidays and this year has helped raise money to send Manhattan High’s thespians to Scotland. Other proceeds go to the class’s activities and causes.
The Interpersonal Skills Class is not the only group at MHS that holds bake sales. Among others are the Spanish Club, which has held an annual sale featuring sopapillas, and the German Club, which, understandably, has sold German foods. Sales such as these have long been fixtures in American schools.
We won’t suggest that cookies are as wholesome as broccoli, but neither are occasional bake sales major contributors to the unhealthful diets that afflict so many young people. The sales are little more than treats, on a par with the birthday cupcakes often distributed to younger children in school.
If student groups want to continue to hold bake sales, the goods will have to be more nutritious. Stephanie Smith, the Manhattan-Ogden School District’s food services director, said cookies that contain fewer than 200 calories and that meet certain other health criteria for sugar, sodium and fat content would qualify.
That might test students’ culinary skills, but if they succeed, they can still satisfy fellow students’ taste buds and in the process generate some money for worthy causes.