Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How schools can fundraise without junk food.

Yesterday my local paper published an article detailing the woes of school administrators who are facing a future without the ability to peddle junk food to their students.

Featured in the story is a Mr. Neal Hill. He's the school council chairman of Hopewell Public School which happily sells its children pizza one week and then subs the next. His quote regarding the pending policy shift that would preclude such sales?

"It’s a completely laudable policy with a completely ludicrous execution"
Ludicrous execution? Either something's allowed, or it's not. Here the government is suggesting that fundraising for schools at the expense of our children's health is something that's not allowed - just as I imagine it would not be allowed for schools to fundraise selling other unhealthy options such as cigarettes or drugs despite both being big money makers.

What I think is truly ludicrous is someone who is interested in the health and well being of children bemoaning losing the ability to routinely sell them products (and brand loyalties) that are unequivocally unhealthy.

According to the article Neal is miserable about losing the $22,000 his school raises annually from junk food sales.

$22,000 is all it costs to convince schools to peddle garbage to their children?

That's not ludicrous, that's pathetic - and it gets worse.

According to Holy Cross School's Maureen Godin they sell out to the tune of only $5,000 a year

Now maybe I'm fooling myself, but I really can't see it being all that difficult to raise $5,000 or even $22,000 annually from non-junk food means in schools that likely have hundreds of students.

Off the top of my head here are 3 non-junk food fundraising ideas that together and well executed I imagine would easily raise $22,000:

1. Grandparent days:

Once a year hold a special day for grandparents where grandparents are encouraged to come to the school, attend a special production of some sort (and charge for it - $10/grandparent x 500 kids is a lot of money), be given a tour of the school (especially parts that could benefit from additional funding), and then get hit up for money. Grandparents, unlike parents of young children, might well have some disposable income as many will still be working, have a paid off mortgage and no kids left at home. They're also likely to be just as, if not more concerned than parents for their grandchildren's future given they have a past with which to contrast what they're seeing. My sister's kids' school in Washington DC does this with apparently impressive results.

2. Sell the stairs:

Where do kids go multiple times a day? Up and down the school's stairs. Want to raise some cash? Renovate the stairwells so kids spend more time there (lighting, paint, signage etc.) and then sell wall space for ads. While I'm not partial to ads directed at children as a whole, they're certainly a lesser evil than school sponsored junk food. So no food ads, but perhaps toy companies and sporting goods (Nike, Adidas, and sports store chains) for the younger kids , sporting goods, clothing manufacturers, car companies and summer job recruiters for the older ones.

3. Adopt a neighbourhood:

I can't take credit for this idea, I first heard it from Yale's Dr. David Katz. The idea's simple. Get each school to adopt the surrounding streets and parks that make up their school's immediate neighbourhood. Once every few weeks get a different few classes of kids out en masse for an hour with garbage bags and have them do a a clean up and then either go door to door or send out a mass mailing asking local residents to support the initiative. Given neighbourhoods around schools are often populated with parents of young children who in turn are the very folks that utilize the parks and streets for recreation, they're quite likely to dig into their pockets in support of a project that helps clean up their kids' local environments - especially if the reasons behind it are spelled out explicitly in the call for funds.

Now I'm not regularly involved in fundraising for schools, and therefore I'm certain that these are just 3 of dozens of strategies that could be put in place to help schools meet their financial needs without having to do so on the backs of their children's health and hopefully one day the notion of schools selling junk food to students will be just as ludicrous as the notion of schools selling them cigarettes.

What a sad statement that school administrators appear to be just giving up rather than using creativity and spirit to come up with healthy solutions.

What a terrible example they're setting for the children.