Healthy Fundraising: How to Fundraise Without Sacrificing Health

Adam Brumberg Cornell Food and Brand Lab 122413718 Date: 06-12-2018

Investing. Fundraising. Donations. Gifts. These are all words that come to mind when we look at ways to increase the financial pools that we can draw on for programming or causes. Many schools hold various fundraisers throughout the year to assist with sports teams, special programming, scholarships, introducing new programs, completing projects or maintaining overall excellence. In order to do this, schools and programs must have both ways and ideas to fundraise. The challenge is a vast majority of fundraisers are geared towards unhealthy foods or habits. Here are some ideas for fundraising without sacrificing health:

  • Farm To Table Fundraiser Dinner – instead of the traditional spaghetti dinners, talk with local farmers and vendors to have fresh/local foods to serve. Alternatively, if you have incredibly successful spaghetti dinners – serve spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta instead to sneak in extra health benefits.
  • Selling Produce or Plants – collaborate with a nursery or local farmer to sell produce or plants to local businesses and individuals. You can also partner with seed organizations to encourage families to grow their own.
  • Day at the Park – work with the City/County to use their park and encourage exercise and healthy snacks by having a family fun day. Set up healthy snack stations (trail mix, granola, flavored water, baked chips, etc.) and activity stations (hula-hoop contest, jump rope contest, tire run, etc.). Bring in additional vendors with activities and healthy programs. Sell various school spirit items, photo booth, etc. to assist with fundraising. Carnival games are always a big hit with children and their families.
  • Scavenger Hunt Challenge – hold a day-long, or even weeklong scavenger hunt. Collaborate with the farmers market, grocery stores, library, churches, schools, parks and local businesses to hide healthy clues at their sites. Charge a fee to participate and then encourage families to get out, increase communication to decode clues and be the first to discover the hidden prize. Have a healthy prize – reusable water bottles, ticket(s) to a school game or park pass for the family. Encourage social media interaction by having families take “healthy selfies” at each location to promote your cause.
  • Movie Night at the School – host a movie on the lawn during the summer where families pay a small fee and have healthy snacks available in place of candy and buttery popcorn. Fruit, nuts and seeds, trail mix and low-fat popcorn are great alternatives.
  • School Cooking Show – have a cooking competition between families or teams of youth at each school to see which school can provide the healthiest and tastiest meal. Have participates pay a fee to join, and then sell tickets for others to attend a live cooking show. Have teams provide their own healthy groceries and recipe or get local businesses to sponsor the ingredients. Get local chefs to volunteer to judge and bring out the local media to record your event.

Be sure to check with your school supervisors to know any limitations or guidelines before scheduling fundraisers. When it comes to executing the event, remember that healthy kids learn better (CDC, 2014). Demonstrate to families and children why nutrition and health matters with consistent messaging at events and programs. Include healthy information in school newsletters, classroom environment and extracurricular activities.

For more information on school fundraising – check out these other Extension articles:


Sarah Ransom, University of Tennessee FCS Extension Agent


Kansas State Department of Education. Child Nutrition and Wellness.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2014)

New York City Department of Education. Healthy Fundraising Tips.