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Massachusetts Law Aims to Curbs Schools' Diet for Bake Sales
May 10, 2012

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Massachusetts recently passed a law severely restricting bake sales in public schools. The law is an attempt to combat youth obesity. However, many parents and students are concerned about the future of school funding.

The law, which takes effect in August, will limit access to "competitive foods," such as junk food and holiday treats. That would apparently also include the normal foods on offer at bake sales, including cakes, cupcakes, and candy bars. A great many schools around the country have bake sales or candy bar sales as fundraisers, especially since funding for schools in general and extracurricular activities in particular continues to fall year after year, sometimes precipitously.

The Massachusetts law is part of a federal effort to tackle childhood obesity. The federal government has taken aim at the contents of school lunches in recent years and has made a particular target of school vending machines, which invariably offer foods of a usually lower nutritional value. A few years ago, the Wisconsin state assembly considered banning sweets from school vending machines.

Feedback in Massachusetts so far has been mixed, with many parents decrying what they see as a direct hit on future fundraising. Several school boards across the state are planning meetings to address the issue.

Other states and school districts (notably the St. Paul, Minn., district in 2007 and New York City schools in 2009) have similar laws, partly in response to direction from the federal Department of Public Health. Reaction to such laws in other states has mirrored that in Massachusetts. In Texas, the state legislature passed a "Safe Cupcake Amendment," to protect that particular kind of sweet from being banned.

Several other states have designed regulations requiring bake sale items to be nutritious.

A widespread effort to ban sweets in Australian schools recently resulted in several schools' opting to defy the ban. Prosecutions were few and far between.


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