Fast Food Fundraising…More Damage than Good?

fast-food-fundraisingSchool fundraising….

Ugh.  I get it, our government has poorly managed funding and our schools (and children) may be suffering because of it.  I am all about doing what I can to make sure my kids get a quality education, and part of doing that means participating in school fundraising.

However, I highly dislike the desperate and unfortunate path that many schools take when it comes to their fundraising efforts.  In short, fast food fundraisers earn easy money but what are they teaching our kids?

Goodbye junk toys, hello junk food

Remember the school fundraisers when you used to sell wrapping paper for the holidays?  Remember the cheap junk prizes they used to reward us with for selling a bunch of other junk from a catalog?

These days, the junk we are rewarding our kids with for school fundraising is in the form of unhealthy food.  What I mean is that many schools are now holding fundraisers at fast food restaurants to try to get as many families buying meals in a particular sponsoring restaurant so the school can earn 10-15% of the earnings made within the given 3-4 hour timeframe.

I have a huge problem with this.  

What lesson are we teaching our kids? Eat crappy junk food so your school can make money off you and our growing obesity epidemic?  My preschooler seriously has a fast food fundraiser every month.  Same with my 4th and 6th graders.

And for the record, I refuse to support any of them.  

 The Cold Hard Truth

It’s not a secret that obesity is an epidemic in the U.S.  Now our kids are growing up and being sucked into that problem, as well.  Let’s look at the statistics as outlined on the Center for Disease Control website:

  • “Approximately 12.7 million children and adolescents aged 2 – 19 are obese”
  • “Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years”
  • “The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

 Let’s do some math

Here is an example:

According to the American Diabetes Association, children ages 4-8 should consume roughly between 1,200 to 1,400 calories, depending on activity level, with less than 25% of them being calories from fat, The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and less than 25 g of sugar daily.

A recent fundraiser at Dairy Queen for my 4 year old could look like this:

A small cookie dough blizzard= 710 calories, (250 calories from fat), 400 mg of sodium, and 75 g of sugar.

That is more than half of his required daily calorie intake and THREE times his recommended daily sugar intake.

McDonald’s McTeacher Night was a recent fundraiser my older kids had.   

A happy meal consisting of a cheeseburger, small fries, and a low-fat chocolate milk = about 650 calories, (200 calories from fat), 945 mg of sodium, and 29 g of sugar.

Those numbers are scary.  A huge part of the rising childhood obesity problem has to do with food that has little to no nutritional value and high sodium content.  That basically defines fast food.  

It is appalling and extremely disappointing that schools are encouraging these types of fundraisers, and quite frequently might I add, simply because they can bring in a lot of money.  They are placing little to no value on the health of our children and families.  However, parents are also to blame.  We are just as responsible for deciding whether or not to partake in these types of fundraising opportunities, and also for discouraging them from happening in our schools in the first place.

Why is this happening?

That is my biggest question every time I see a flyer cross my kitchen counter promoting yet another fast food fundraiser.  I understand we are a society of convenience, but really?

 I totally understand those days when you are just completely beat and find it easier to grab dinner in a drive-thru than to stand in front of the stovetop cooking.  Or when you work late and simply don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal.  

I get that sometimes we may feel guilty for being unable to volunteer in our kids classroom so we do our part by supporting fundraisers we despise.  

I know these situations because I have been there myself.  My kids occasionally eat fast food.  The issue, in my opinion, is that schools or the PTSA groups that handle fundraising are taking complete advantage of these scenarios, and doing so too often, and its a step in the wrong direction.  It’s an unhealthy method of earning money to support your children’s school.  

Alternative Fundraising Ideas

So now that I have just pissed off every member of my kids’ PTSO, what do I suggest we do instead?  

Recipe book:  This was one of my favorite fundraisers.  Parents contribute their favorite recipes, they get collated and published, and voila, you sell it!  This will encourage more family dinners, home cooked meals, and lots of kid-friendly recipes you can turn to during a busy weeknight.

Community yard sale: Everyone has junk prized possessions to sell.  All year long I have to listen to my husband complain about my growing pile of garage sale items taking over the garage.  I would gladly send it on over to the school for others to take it off my hands and the money donated to the school.

Car wash: Put those kids to work!  This encourages teamwork and accountability and doesn’t pit our kids against each other.  It brings a sense of community and fun as well.

Jog-a-thon: I am all about encouraging my kids to be active.  I love these fundraisers.  You can donate a set amount or pledge per lap.  (Just be careful because pledging per lap can get expensive when the course is a 20′ x 20′ square of cones and your kid runs 45 “laps”, after you offer up $5 per lap.) My kids may or may not consider this their least favorite fundraiser…

Mother/Son BBQ:  This is another one of my favorites.  I will gladly pay for a ticket to spend a little mom/son time with my sweet boys.  Even if this may not be considered a fundraiser, but instead a PTSA sponsored activity, it shouldn’t be hard to turn it into a fundraiser.

Daddy/Daughter Dance: Like the Mother/Son BBQ idea, I’m sure many dads will cough up the money to enjoy a few dances, a souvenir photo, games, and refreshments with their little girls!

These are just a few ways to get fundraising back to what it should be; The kind of fundraisers that teach teamwork, cooperation, and accountability, that do not do more damage than good, and that give kids a chance to be real participants in a meaningful way.

 We have a long way to go but by bringing awareness to the situation may be just the start we need.