MCPS, it’s time to put the fun back in fundraising


Illustration by Samantha Silber

Observer staff faced a similar challenge when trying to find food we were allowed to distribute to students in our fundraiser.

By Sammi Silber and Katie Gauch

I want candy.

School can get boring between studying for tests, endless homework assignments and improving your college resume. To balance work and play, many students look forward to fundraisers which boost energy and promote school spirit throughout the year. However, due to changes in MCPS food regulations, CHS and all other MCPS schools are no longer allowed to distribute “fun” food as part of fundraisers.

Quick backstory. This year, the Observer attempted to hold a candy gram fundraiser for Valentine’s Day. However, in the process of getting the fundraiser approved, we learned we were not allowed to give out candy to students due to MCPS regulations, leaving us with limited options of what to give instead.
According to the MCPS food policies and regulations, the total fat of food items must be below or at 35 percent of the total calorie count, and the sugar content of items must be under or at 35 percent of the total weight.

The regulations clearly state that candy, donuts, gum, chips, soda and many other items are no longer allowed to be distributed. Healthier options, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as certain 100 calorie foods and items such as pencils, are allowed to be given out.

Well, that takes the “fun” out of “fundraiser” doesn’t it?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) put these new policies in place in order to promote health for children across the nation. However, these well-intended regulations are ineffective.

According to Kathleen Heinrich, assistant director of MCPS Food and Nutrition Services, the USDA is trying to create a healthy school environment free of junk food and “fun” food, which creates a “gray area” when it comes to fundraising.

What is one piece of candy going to do? Students are educated through health classes and culture in general that eating too much junk food can be detrimental to their health.

Everything should be in moderation. We are not proposing that all CHS fundraisers should give out junk food, but a little candy never killed anybody.

According to Heinrich, there are usually three fundraisers per year without these restrictions in an attempt to compensate. However, CHS was not granted any of the three bypasses in the 2014-2015 school year.

Candy grams have been a CHS tradition every Christmas and Valentine’s Day, along with pizza sales throughout the year, which allow student-run clubs to sell a slice for a dollar after school.

Neither of these fundraisers are allowed anymore, so clubs and organizations have a more difficult time raising money.

Instead, school-sponsored organizations can hold restaurant nights at local businesses, such as California Pizza Kitchen, Chipotle and Potomac Pizza. If the USDA is concerned about the health benefits of fundraiser foods, cheese fries, pizza and burritos should not be seen as healthier options than a mini Kit-Kat during school hours.

According to the MCPS Food Regulations, although unhealthy junk food is prohibited, peanuts, which cause many allergic reactions, fall under foods that are allowed to be distributed.

If the USDA is worried about school fundraisers distributing junk food to children for health reasons, then why are peanuts still allowed? One peanut can cause an allergic reaction that can kill someone, whereas a Skittle won’t do as much harm.

The immediate effect of one peanut may cause a student to stop breathing entirely, leaving them with an Epi-Pen injection or a trip to the emergency room. Although it is more nutritionally beneficial, if such harm can arise from eating or being in contact with a peanut, then the USDA should list peanuts among the restricted food items, rather than foods that are a little unhealthy.

Though these regulations mean well, they are pointless and offer zero fun alternatives when it comes to fundraising. MCPS, please take it easy on the schools when it comes to fun food. Hopefully, these sour regulations will sweeten up before disappearing completely.