COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina officials recently approved exemptions for new federal school snack regulations championed by first lady Michelle Obama in an effort to reduce their impact on student fundraisers.
“Fundraisers provide vital income for extracurricular activities that are also essential for our children’s development, such as band, sports, and field trips,” said Molly Spearman, the state’s new superintendent of education, according to Greenville Online.
“We need a reasonable balance that does not prohibit school districts from exercising their discretion to permit infrequent fundraisers that include foods that do not meet the ‘Smart Snacks’ requirements, such as bake sales or special treats sold by student organizations,” she said.
The ‘Smart Snacks’ regulations implemented in schools this year are the latest in a wave of new federal school food restrictions that limit calories, fat, sugar, sodium and other aspects of foods sold in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.
The food restrictions, the pet project of first lady Michelle Obama, aims to fight childhood obesity through bureaucracy, but has been met with staunch indignation from students, more than 1 million of which no longer eat school lunch.
The regulations also stipulate that every student must take a fruit or vegetable with their lunch, a reality that has created well over $1 billion in food waste since the new rules took effect in 2012.
School districts across South Carolina and most other states have complained about significant lunch room revenue losses tied to the new regulations, as well as the negative impact on student fundraisers that often rely on candy bars or baked goods to raise money.
Spearman’s exemption for fundraisers will allow South Carolina schools to do away with the nutrition restrictions for up to 39 days – 13 waivers for three days each. The plan in South Carolina is to whittle down those days over the next few school years, with up to 30 three-day waivers for 2015-16, 30 two day waivers for 2016-17, and 30 one-day waivers in 2017-18, Greenville Online reports.
“School board members, local communities, parents can come together and decide (when waivers are appropriate) at a local level,” DOE spokeswoman Beth Franko told Fox 57.
“We shouldn’t have Washington coming to tell us what we can eat in South Carolina.”
The Greenville County School Board approved a letter to Spearman Tuesday commending her for creating the exemptions, according to Greenville Online.
“This flexibility allows our schools to determine, with their local communities, the appropriate balance between honoring our commitment to strong nutritional standards and permitting the occasional special fundraiser,” the letter read.
Others, like Beth Franko – executive director of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina, don’t think the waivers are a good idea.
“South Carolina is third in childhood obesity in this nation,” she told Fox. “Yet, we now have one of the most generous fundraising exemptions that has been put into place.”
Other states like Georgia have also granted exemptions for “unhealthy” school food sales.