Feds Target School Bake Sales

On December 3, the lame-duck House passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, previously approved by the Senate. President Obama, doubtless preoccupied with such trivia as taxes, unemployment, Korea, and China, has yet to sign it into law. A mere two hundred and twenty pages long, it has lots of provisions for allocation of funds, demonstration projects, and the like. Many may be worthwhile.

However, included in the legislation is a provision authorizing the secretary of Agriculture to regulate school fundraising bake sales to ensure that they are infrequent and that the goodies sold are nutritionally acceptable. Far from innocuous, that is yet another distasteful and unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into our daily lives.

Under Section 208 of the Act, the secretary of Agriculture is to

establish science-based nutrition standards for foods sold in schools other than foods provided under this Act and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.)

With the two noted exceptions, the standards are to pertain to all foods sold on school campuses at any time during the school day. The standards are to be:

consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans published under section 301 of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 5341), including the food groups to encourage and nutrients of concern identified in the Dietary Guidelines.

In establishing the standards,

the Secretary is to consider authoritative scientific recommendations for nutrition standards; existing school nutrition standards, including voluntary standards for beverages and snack foods and State and local standards; the practical application of the nutrition standards.

He can but need not grant:

special exemptions for school-sponsored fundraisers (other than fundraising through vending machines, school stores, snack bars, a la carte sales, and any other exclusions determined by the Secretary), if the fundraisers are approved by the school and are infrequent within the school.

In fewer words, the secretary is required to regulate school bake sales unless he chooses to grant special exemptions. The steps a school district would need to take to secure a special exemption will likely be sufficiently onerous that very few will be sought. At least some schools sponsor bake sales because they need the money; the costs of securing special exemptions could easily outweigh any funds raised.