Stamford schools say yes to bake sales

Advocate file photo

The Board of Education’s fiscal committee passed a resolution forward to the whole board, which states that the city’s schools will not join Connecticut’s Healthy Food Certification program. Declining to participate in the program closes the door on an additional $.10 in funding from the state for every meal sold in the district’s cafeterias — but it also keeps alive freedom for clubs and parent-teacher organizations host bake sales as fundraisers.

This isn’t the first year Stamford has declined to participate. I wrote a similar story last year when the Board of Education voted against joining as well. Here’s some of the more intricate details from that report:

The state initiative provides partial reimbursements for schools that limit food sales to state-approved low-fat and low-sugar foods. In the past, Stamford has not participated in the program, which would provide the school with an additional 10 cents per lunch sold, due to logistical issues such as monitoring food at sports events and the use of bake sales for fundraising.

During the 2010-11 school year, 124 of the 184 eligible districts throughout the state participated in the program.

On Tuesday, fiscal committee member Jackie Heftman was the only voter who opposed the vote to decline the funding, citing rising childhood obesity rates as a major public health concern — not to mention the additional funding the district would receive if they signed on.

But committee member Lorraine Olson, who is a nurse, said that “as long as we taught students the right way to choose their meals” she sees no problem with allowing bake sales in the district. “We need to trust their judgment,” she said.

Interim Superintendent Winifred Hamilton pointed out that the constraints that would come along with signing on to the program would have long reaching effects. “There would be no cupcakes in the elementary schools for birthday parties. No bake sales. No birthday cakes,” she said. And it could have serious effects on fundraising efforts.

Board member Rich Lyons said that while he shared Heftman’s concern about obesity, he felt the district could better handle the situation through the foods it chooses to serve both at lunch and in vending machines, without having to preclude organizations from selling the occasional baked good in the name of an eighth-grade dance. And fiscal chairman Jerry Pia added that he didn’t feel it was government’s place to regulate what children eat to that level, citing his dissatisfaction with the recent push by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to outlaw large sugary drinks in his city.

Just too draconian, he said.

What do you think? Should Stamford sign on, or were board members right to turn away the healthy-school funding in the name of bake sales?

Maggie Gordon