The Department of Education’s (DOE) Panel for Educational Policy decided to repeal the ban on bake sales in all New York City public schools after meeting on Wednesday, February 24, but placed new restrictions on which items may be sold. Under the new regulations, no homemade foods may be sold in schools from the beginning of the school day until 6:00 p.m. Students are only allowed to sell fruits and vegetables, as well as any of 27 packaged foods that have already been approved by the DOE.
According to the New York Times article, “No Brownies At Bake Sales, But Doritos May Be O.K.,” published on Tuesday, February 23, in order to “qualify as an approved item, a snack must meet 11 criteria developed by the city,” including, for example, being packaged in marked, single-serving bags with a maximum of 200 calories per serving, with less than 35 percent of the calories coming from total sugars or fat.
The 27 packaged foods that met the 11 criteria include two varieties of Doritos chips, a type of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts, two-cookie packs of Linden’s Cookies, blackberry flavored Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars, among others. In order to add a new product to the list of permitted foods, one must submit the product’s printed nutritional information to the DOE for approval.
According to Chancellor’s Regulation A-812, the previous regulation that had originally banned all bake sales “has been updated to provide additional flexibility for fundraising while conforming to the [DOE’s] Wellness Policy and initiatives to improve the quality and nutritional value of foods and beverages that are available for children.”
The reason that home-baked goods cannot be sold in these now-permitted school sales, however, is that “it’s impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is,” said Kathleen Grimm—the Deputy Chancellor for Infrastructure and Portfolio Planning, who oversees the regulation—in the New York Times article “No Brownies At Bake Sales, But Doritos May Be O.K.”
According to the regulation, the only time during which unapproved foods may be sold is at a bake sale hosted by a Parents’ Association or Parent-Teacher Association once a month, provided that sales are conducted outside of the cafeteria.
According to Principal Stanley Teitel, the Student Union (SU) would be in charge of the sales of approved food items. The SU would have to order snacks and distribute them to clubs for sale. However, the SU has not made any definite decision on sales yet because it is taking into consideration time constraints and the feasibility of its options. “Considering there [are] three months of school left and it takes two weeks of organization and three weeks to deliver, we’ll have to weigh that and see if its worth it to start these snack sales this term or next year,” senior and SU president Paul Lee said.
Teitel doubts the benefits of the new regulations. “I don’t think this is going to help close the gap in funding for student extracurriculars,” he said. “In the past we ran bake sales twice a week, and this new policy only allows for one once a month.” When asked about the nutritional value of the approved foods, Teitel said, “It’s a matter of the individual. Somebody telling me what to eat isn’t going to change my habit.”
Parent Coordinator Harvey Blumm also addressed the financial needs of student organizations in his reaction to the policy. “I applaud the rationale behind it. And especially in a period of significant budget cuts, student organizations are probably getting less support, so it’s doubly difficult [for them],” he said. “It seems kind of silly to me that a home-baked cupcake is bad but Doritos is okay.”
Like Blumm, other people are not pleased with the new decision. Elizabeth Puccini, mother of students at the Children Workshop School in the East Village, is sponsoring an online petition against the policy change, which has collected nearly 850 signatures in five days.
The Facebook group “Petition Against the A-812 Regulation of the Chancellor” has helped spread awareness about the petition. Bronx High School of Science junior and administrator of the Facebook group Matthew Melore said, “The only option for making money at schools with the vending machines is to have bake sales with homemade foods. […With packaged snacks] the clubs have to sell the snacks at a higher rate to make a profit while still trying to maintain a lower price than the vending machines that have all the packaged foods.”
A group of parents organized a rally that took place at City Hall on Thursday, March 18, to protest the new regulations. Holding signs that read “Joel Klein get out of the pantry” and chanting, “DOE, read our lips, no more chips,” the sizable group of over 100 parents and children protested the policy change. Two tables with the new approved foods for sale and banned home made foods were on display. The rally was organized through www.nycgreenschools.com and Facebook. “Parents know what is healthy and these foods are not,” said Helen Greenberg, a parent organizer. “The loss of bake sales is hurting everything from extracurricular [activities] to supplies for art rooms and the parents have taken it up on themselves to show that we need the [homemade goods] back.”
The robotics team held the first bake sale at Stuyvesant, under the new regulations, on Wednesday, March 17. The team is raising money for the costs of going to the national FIRST robotics competition in Atlanta, Georgia in April. The bake sale took place from period 7 until after school. “The bake sale was a huge success in itself,” said Spencer Birnbaum, a member of the robotics team. “We made over 600 dollars from the bake sale, but this is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to closing the ten percent budget gap we lost from the ban of food sales.”
Smaller clubs are waiting it out until next year to consider bake sales. “It’s great that we can finally sell something to raise money, but it’s late in the year to start sales,” Pokemon Fan Club President William Tsui said. “ A lot of clubs are going to become inactive in spring.”
Students have mixed reactions to the new regulations. “The new policy seems more like its playing out to the interests of these companies that are trying to sell their products in school,” junior Jimmy Cheung said.
Others think a compromise is still better than nothing. “Clubs can finally have a way to raise money, and this entire year has been really hard for the clubs to do as much as we used to,” junior Fanny Mei said.