Bake Sale

Who doesn’t love a bake sale? Tasty brownies, yummy pumpkin muffins, chocolate chip cookies… there’s nothing better. And it’s all to raise money for your school’s parents’ association or the eighth-grade trip to Washington. It’s a win-win for everyone, right?

Well, times have changed. You won’t be finding mom’s famous brownies at NYC school bake sales anytime soon. The New York City Department of Education amended Regulation A-812 “to improve the nutritional quality of food and beverages available for sale to students at school.” In an attempt to combat obesity, the department preselected 28 low-fat and low-calorie snacks allowed in schools. Along with fruits and vegetables, kids can buy treats like Reduced Fat Cool Ranch Doritos or Whole Grain Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts, but no homemade oatmeal cookies. Nothing homemade is permissible. On one hand, yay for getting kids to eat food with less fat, sugar and salt. But Doritos? Really? They are filled with preservatives, artificial flavors and colors. I can’t pronounce half the stuff in the ingredients—disodium phosphate, disodium inosinate, sodium acetate and monosodium glutamate, to name just a few. What is that stuff? Is it food? Or just chemicals to keep the chips “fresh” for months and months in some vending machine? The ingredients in a typical oatmeal cookie recipe include flour, oats, baking soda, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Which list of ingredients sounds healthier to you?

Michael Pollan, the food superstar and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, notes, “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” We know it is important to advocate for ending childhood obesity. But who is advocating for getting children to eat healthy home-cooked food free from chemicals? Pollan writes:

“When Froot Loops can earn a Smart Choices check mark, a new industrywide label that indicates a product’s supposed healthfulness, we know we can’t rely on the marketers, with their dubious health claims, or for that matter on the academic nutritionists who collaborate on such labeling schemes. (One of them defended the inclusion of Froot Loops on the grounds that they are better for you than doughnuts. So why doesn’t the label simply say that?)”

I don’t know what to say about the NYC Department of Education. I guess a letter stating my concern on the inclusion of Doritos as an approved snack is in order. And maybe I will advocate conducting a real-food bake sale off campus.

As a general good rule of thumb, when in doubt, avoid foods that have more than five ingredients listed. And most importantly, fruits and vegetables rule. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

And if you think Doritos are bad, check out this crazy post about some so-called “food” items.

Now that you are totally grossed out, Katherine Pennington’s website has great recipes and advice on healthy eating.

In 2006, Francesca Olivieri co-founded the company sage baby, an online eco-friendly baby store offering everything from organic clothes and skincare to furniture. She also writes a monthly blog for Scenic Hudson as well as contributes articles to Daily Candy Kids, CitiScoop and NRDC’s Simple Steps. She continues to watch her green business grow while seeking to apply her values to her own home and family. Francesca lives in New York City with her husband and three kids, 9, 7 and 4.

Posted in Nutrition