Promoting healthy behaviors outside of the classroom is a natural way to encourage hands-on learning; why then, do we use candy and other sweets to raise money at many school fundraisers? Common fundraisers, such as bake sales, may increase calorie consumption and don’t allow for the healthy behaviors that are taught and encouraged in the classroom. By teaching children about healthy foods but encouraging them to spend money on sweets, mixed messages are undermining long-term, healthy eating habits.
Since it is hard to eliminate food completely from fundraising, try selling healthier snack options. Trail mix, smoothies, and make-your-own fruit and low-fat yogurt parfaits are three examples of healthy snacks that kids don’t typically eat every day. Including unique snacks makes kids more likely to purchase these healthier treats. Having a make-your-own station lets children feel in control of their snack, making them more satisfied with their purchase. Try hosting a make-your-own parfait or trail mix station with a variety of fresh and dried fruits, whole grains and nonfat yogurt products.
Additionally, there are many alternatives to traditional fundraising activities, some of which even encourage physical activity! Hosting a 5K walk, a bowling night or a dance are a few options for adding physical activity to any fundraiser. Since these are family-friendly activities, it is easy to encourage people of all ages to join in. You can raise more money by encouraging participants to get others to sponsor them.
Other all-inclusive activities include a gift wrap drive, tag sale or raffle. Because these options don’t involve food or physical activity, they are good options for communities that have members with limited mobility or members who have severe food allergies. These options can be fun and engage every member in the community, maximizing potential profit.
Healthier options can be hands-on and still just as delicious and profitable. Alternate fundraising options can help promote lifelong positive behaviors in children, from making healthy choices to including involvement of everyone in their community. Be sure to check with the school administration about policies on fundraising in schools before you plan your next event!
See these resources for some more options:
- Fundraising Options Available to Schools- National Alliance for Nutrition Activity, Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Why Should Schools Avoid Food Related Fund Raisers- HealthySD.gov
- Healthy School Fundraising Ideas: Alternatives to Selling Food, Candy and Drinks- ASPHN
Sarah Roger and Tisa Hill, Cornell University Division of Nutrition Sciences