Fat: WI Madison public schools selling candy ban

Wisconsin Fat ban update

Sour sweets: Schools’ health push ends fruitful candy sales

Susan Troller — 10/06/2007

Candy may not be good for you, but it has been very good for fundraising in schools.

Under a tough new wellness policy enacted last year for Madison public schools, selling candy within all schools — from the elementary level up to the high schools — is now forbidden.

As a result, a number of student high school clubs and organizations that used to depend on in-school candy sales are being forced to tighten their belts or scramble to find other ways to try to offset the losses.

“We are really hampered by the wellness policy. We used to make about $3,500 every year selling high-quality chocolates at school, but that’s no longer allowed,” A.J. Lenz, a teacher who advises the French Club at East High, said in a recent interview.

“Now we’re trying to sell birthday and special occasion balloons as our signature thing but we’re not making nearly the same amount. I feel bad for the kids because they used to be able to donate some money to good causes, and also help offset the cost of things like French/English dictionaries for some of our students here,” Lenz said.

He said that the ban has created something of an in-school black market.

“There are kids selling candy or soda out of their lockers as a way to get around the wellness policy,” Lenz said.

Bottom line to me is that kids 15, 16, 17, 18 years old should be able to make up their own minds about buying candy,” he added.

Over at West High, the school store has operated for years as a laboratory for marketing class students. Following the decree banning candy, soda and junk food, the store eliminated its wall of candy and now has shelves stocked with granola bars and fruit snacks.

“It used to be crowded, shoulder-to-shoulder, during the lunch hour. Now if there are maybe 20 students, it’s a lot,” said Laura Checovich, a West student who is the student alternate representative on the School Board.

“It’s been a big change,” acknowledged Melanie Johnson, West’s marketing department chair.

“I think we’re all for healthy choices but when you can’t carry sugarless gum in your school store because it doesn’t have nutritional value I think you’ve probably gone too far,” she said.

She estimated that sales have dropped by about two-thirds since the wellness policy was put in place last year. It’s not that students have given up on candy or snacks. They simply leave school during their lunch hour and walk down a block to the Regent Street Co-op for their junk food fix, or bring it from home.

“There’s less money for scholarships, and to help support our very active DECA club, which sends about 20 students to national competition every year,” Johnson said.

“I think the policy has also diminished the effectiveness of the store as a learning tool, because there isn’t the turnover in products, or the same daily pressure of customer relationships. It provided a very real world experience for the students who worked there, and who managed the store,” she added.

Bruce Dahmen, principal at Memorial, said that parents and students were digging deeper in their own

pockets to participate in clubs and school organizations that formerly raised money through in-school candy sales.

“As valuable as the wellness policy is, we’ve certainly noticed a drop in dollars for groups like drama, debate and forensics,” Dahmen said.

“Our programs are trying a lot of alternatives, like car washes or sales of fruit. We’ll see what happens,” he said.

He said he welcomes the focus on healthy eating but finds it frustrating that the real winners seem to be the stores close to school where students go on a daily basis to buy the banned foods.

“There’s a new market right across the street on Gammon Road that’s basically a confectionary. I completely agree that we have the obligation to teach our students about nutrition and making healthy choices,” he said. “But the kids are leaving the building to make those choices.”

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