Advocacy News What's Happening

Don’t sell junk food to raise funds for schools

GREENVILLE NEWS
FEBRUARY 14, 2015
BY FRED CRAWFORD AND WILLIAM W. BROWN

legacy_crawford250Within days of taking office, South Carolina’s new state school superintendent, Molly Spearman, has erected new barriers between low-income children and nutritious meals. She has lifted the ban on selling junk food in schools. But the link between good nutrition and clear thinking is well established.

“Children who eat well and exercise more come to school better prepared to learn,” according to Bridget Clementi of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. For many low-income children, it’s learning that gives them a chance to escape the generational poverty they were born into.

We know intuitively that when we feel better, we do better. That’s why at Legacy Charter School in West Greenville, we operate from a three-point strategy for educational success — academic mastery, nutrition, and fitness.

We are the only public school in South Carolina that has physical education every day for every student. We serve only nutritious meals with no fried foods, sodas or junk food. For the past five years, Dr. Julian Reed, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Furman University, has conducted a Fitness/Cognitive Study on Legacy students compared to students of like demographics in other schools. Study data has proven our intuition right — a healthy body really does feed a healthy mind.

The evidence is clear that a wellness advantage converts to an educational advantage. So why are the state’s education leaders making the sale of junk food at school an immediate concern?

legacy_brown250South Carolina has a well-documented obesity problem (“The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America” available at http://stateofobesity.org/states/sc/). It’s not just adults who struggle with extra pounds but kids, too, are forced to cope with the self-esteem, educational and physical diminishment that accompanies excess body weight.

Schools could be pivotal to changing that. Teaching healthy nutritional habits at school can travel home and impact a family, changing lifetime behaviors for the better. Transform families. Transform communities.

The data and the parents agree. In a poll done by Eat Smart, Move More, 75 percent of South Carolina parents support and like the guidelines devised by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Who doesn’t want their child to eat nutritiously, be alert in class, and have an active body at recess and in PE class?

Education officials, however, tell us the new policy will help schools raise money for extracurricular programs. Fundraising options are a high priority for schools.

At Legacy, we are keenly aware that fundraising is critical. As a charter school, we receive less in state funds than other public schools. We depend on generous donations for our buildings, busing, and special programs, such as music, athletics, and field trips. Schools need funds, but nutrition is about what’s best for our children, not what’s easiest for school fundraisers.

So, let’s get creative and use fundraising strategies that support healthy behaviors rather than championing the option for schools to sell junk food one out of every five school days. PTOs, band boosters, and other school fundraisers can include bike-a-thons, jump-rope-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, dances, tournaments, and amateur athletic competitions. Growums.Com offers fun garden programs that raise money and help kids grow healthy foods at the same time.

We don’t need to sell junk food to raise money.

A study published in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that every separate food fundraiser that sold low-nutrition foods in a school is associated with a 10 percent increase in students’ body mass indexes (BMI). While some African countries are progressively experimenting with homegrown meals from school gardens to feed their school children nutritious meals, South Carolina has purposefully slid backwards from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act, which had finally reformed school menus.

Many of us remember school cafeteria food as unappetizing and unsatisfying. Let’s do better for our children. And if the State of South Carolina won’t do it, we will.

At Legacy Charter School, our charter is defined by wellness and academic mastery. Our charter is our educational promise. We won’t break our promise to our children.Fred Crawford is the executive director of Legacy Charter School, and William W. Brown is chairman of the board of Legacy Charter School.

Fred Crawford is the executive director of Legacy Charter School, and William W. Brown is chairman of the board of Legacy Charter School.