The Right Note: Free the Bake Sale

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark KellyStories abound about the results of the new federal school nutrition standards. Since their implementation, usage of the program is down, food waste is up, and many students simply go home hungry at the end of the day.

It is not that the health of our children is not an important concern. But, the point of the school lunch program at its inception was to feed kids who do not have enough to eat at home.

The larger argument about the wisdom or practicality of these standards is for another time and forum. One issue surrounding them did rise to the surface again recently. Can kids have “bake sales” during school hours to raise money for their various causes?

Yes, the new school nutrition standards have rules about bake sales. Cookies, brownies, donuts and pizza do not meet the standards. Therefore, they are prohibited from being sold at school.

There is an exception. Each state may allow them, but they have to set rules for doing so. Otherwise, students would be left to sell whole grain, sugar-free, and taste-free muffins to raise money for band uniforms and field trips.

For some reason, Virginia’s State Board of Education had not set forward any rules. So, it led to a debate in the Virginia General Assembly on a bill to determine how many each school could have in a given year.

Maybe in Arlington where the median income is over $100,000, most of us are simply OK with writing a check to cover the extras the school budget does not. But, not every school district is so lucky. And, banning the bake sale takes away the opportunity for kids to learn lessons about working for money in order get things they want or need or to be able to donate that money to a charitable cause.

One Republican Senator said her kids gravitated toward unhealthy foods and therefore she would not support any exceptions for fundraisers. Of course her kids do. Unhealthy food tastes good. Many of us like a good slice of pizza, a Saturday morning donut, or a good bowl of ice cream.

But as a parent, it is our responsibility to teach our kids to eat right. The purchase of a giant chocolate chip cookie at school one afternoon will not dramatically alter a child’s eating habits. Neither will prohibiting it.

The bill to allow bake sales passed the Senate with 17 Senators voting “no” and one voting “present.” I am not sure which is worse, that 17 Senators thought bake sales should be prohibited or one who could not seem to make up their mind.

The bill to free the bake sale now awaits Gov. Terey McAuliffe’s signature. His wife is a proponent of the nutrition standards, so it will be interesting to see if he signs it.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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