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School fundraising – finding healthier options

170123_TSF_BlogHero_01A new year and kids are back at school. May the fundraisers begin!

Raising funds are an integral part of school society, helping buy books, and sporting and computer equipment through cake stalls, chocolate boxes, or partnerships with Maccas.

Not ideal options, especially as schools try their darndest to promote healthy eating and living.

The occasional treat for our kids is fine. One Happy Meal or a giant Freddo Frog in a week ain’t going to break the health bank. But should we be using discretionary (a.k.a junk) foods to help fund our kids learning?

Finding healthy alternatives for school funding can be difficult – but surprisingly, students are often keen and open to healthier alternatives! Here are a few ideas to consider 🙂

Identify the sugar
The NSW Department of Education recommends any activity or program within the school or that involves the wider school community should promote healthy eating and good nutrition.

Of course, we want to promote healthy eating through our schools. And by identifying what foods are better for our kids than others, informed decisions can be made around what to do for future, healthier fundraisers.

This can begin with identifying what is available in the school canteen.

Many schools find they provide a lot of added sugar to their students (despite best intentions) and when brought to attention can be an eye opener for the principal, teachers, and parents.

First: Find out how many days your school offers a discretionary food; foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages, deep-fried foods and savoury snacks like crisps, ice creams, cakes, muffins, sweet pastries and confectionary. Is it every day, or once or twice a term?

Ideally, they will only be available very occasionally.

The Fresh Taste Canteen Guide was produced to help with this, but it is in desperate need of updating. Sure, it discourages regular intake of confectionery, but it allows moderate intake of other food and drink that actually contain a decent serve of added sugars, focusing largely on sodium, saturated fat, and (lack of) fibre content to determine how healthy a food or drink is.

In fact, some ‘green light’ always-on-the-menu options include flavoured milk and low-fat fruit yoghurt, which are packed with added sugar. Shouldn’t any food or drink with an excessive amount of the sweet stuff be reserved as an occasional treat, not an everyday part of the canteen menu?

Which brings us to our next point.

Second: Identify the amount of added sugars in ALL the foods available at the school, not only the discretionary ‘occasional’ foods. The That Sugar School Action Toolkit offers info on how to go about this, including a great canteen audit that assesses the amount of sugars in canteen food and drink.

By knowing what foods are readily available in canteens, there can be changes to reduce the amount of added sugars available to students. Then, informed decisions can be made around what to consider as part of a future, healthier fundraiser.

Find alternative foods for fundraisers
Fundraising doesn’t always need to fall to choc chips cookies and Cadbury. Try a fundraiser with an alternative like mangoes, plants, or have a produce sale with goodies from the school garden and chickens!

Consider partnering with a local or community organisation – such as whole food and produce providers, or gardening centres – that can help supply goods for a fundraising drive that align with the healthy eating the school encourages.

Focus on an activity, rather than food
Take the focus of the event away from food. Enjoy physical activities, like dance parties, a scavenger hunt, or a mini-Olympics, or events like movie or trivia nights.

Despite moving the focus from food, at the event participants will want something to snack on! Have good whole foods available like fruit kebabs, fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt, and vegetables, cheese and dips. Parents can also contribute healthy homemade foods. It is about ensuring whatever unhealthy food is available there are as many, if not more, healthy treats.

Don’t want to organise an event? How about getting kids creative and have them paint, draw or graphically design prints for calendars, cards or tea towels and sell them to family, friends, and the community.

For more ideas, That Sugar Ambassador Fran Bruce offers some neat alternatives for healthy fundraising on her website, as does Fundraising Ideas.

Get involved
Ultimately, if you have concerns, get involved and approach the school with alternatives. You may wish to consider a petition too, a powerful tool to highlight how the school community feels.

Happy fundraising 🙂

Shout out: thanks to the That Sugar Ambassadors for their advice on this topic!
Please note: any organisation mentioned are simply examples and have no affiliation with That Sugar (unless specified).

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