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Fundraising and Wellness Policies - Fall 2006
What are the rules for selling candy in school?
– Spring 2003
Candy Sales in Schools: Finding a Healthy Balance – Spring 2003
Be Cool. Chill Out. Refrigerate Promptly. – Fall 2001
Ask a Pro: About Holiday Shops – Fall 2001
Spotlight on Online Fundraising – Fall 2000
Product Quality Counts – Spring 1997

Fundraising and Wellness Policies

Fall 2006

For decades, schools, sports leagues and youth groups have kicked off the fall season by selling candy to pay for items and programs not covered by shrinking school budgets — such as new playground equipment, computer labs, band uniforms and after-school reading programs, just to name a few. Today, candy still is one of the most popular items sold to raise funds, and makes up a large share of the $1.4 billion raised each year by school groups through product sales. However in recent years, candy sales in schools have come under scrutiny with new government mandated wellness policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity. To date, no state has passed any law prohibiting the sale of candy as part of a school fundraiser conducted off campus. However, many individual school districts are now required to have their own wellness policies, which may go beyond the states’ regulations. With so many people creating so many rules, it’s easy to understand why fundraising sponsors and school administrators are sometimes confused while trying to understand and comply with these new policies. Some parent-teacher group leaders are struggling with striking a balance between following the new guidelines while, at the same time, avoiding losing vital fundraising revenue.

“I’m confused by the whole policy,” Bobbi Jo Brown, a PTO president at an elementary school in Hanover, Pennsylvania, recently told a local reporter. “I understand as far as childhood obesity goes that they want to get a handle on it. But, it all starts at home.”

The new school-district wellness policies are based on a Congressional mandate that requires all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to have in place a “local school wellness policy” that, among other things, provides nutritional guidelines for foods sold on-campus, during the school day. Most of these new policies do not conflict with school group fundraising because lawmakers and school authorities realize that most of the candy sold by school groups is not sold to students for consumption at school. Rather they are sold to family members and friends – mostly adults – off school grounds.

“The ideal school wellness policy will focus on improved nutrition education and physical education,” according to Dr. Susan Finn, a registered dietician. “It will promote physical activity. It will involve nutritionists and dieticians educating teachers so that they can then educate their students with accurate information. It will turn school cafeterias into laboratories for [nutritional] learning.”

Finn is chair of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, a group of food and beverage companies, not-for-profit organizations, and trade associations working together to improve the health of Americans – particularly youth – by encouraging a healthy balance between fitness and nutrition. Finn does not believe restrictions on off-campus fundraising sales will help combat childhood obesity.

“It isn’t about banning foods,” she said. Finn believes schools need to focus on the positives – and instead of restricting certain foods, use them as an opportunity to teach students that all foods have a place in the diet, if consumed in moderation and in combination with exercise.

For more information on state wellness policies, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website at Also visit the website for the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition at

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What are the rules for selling candy in school?

Spring 2003

Since USDA issued regulations in 1985, schools that participate in the federally funded school lunch program are not allowed to sell foods of minimal nutritional value (including certain candy)* during breakfast or lunchtime. These restrictions apply only in cafeterias and/or other food service areas. In other words, federal law – then and now – does NOT prohibit the sale of candy in schools as long as those sales take place outside of traditional meal times and food service areas.

* Foods of minimal nutritional value are foods with less than five percent of the recommended dietary allowance for key nutrients. These foods include soda or any carbonated beverage, water ices, chewing gum and certain candies – such as jellybeans, lollipops, marshmallow candies, licorice, cotton candy and candy coated popcorn. Other foods, including several types of chocolate candy bars, (containing a minimum of 5% of the RDI for each of eight specified nutrients – protein, vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, calcium and iron – per 100 calories and per serving) may be sold without restriction provided “all income from the sale of such foods accrues to the benefit of the nonprofit school food service or the school or student organizations approved by the school.”

Source: 7 Code of Federal Regulations Sections 210.11 and 210.12

Candy Sales in Schools: Finding a Healthy Balance

Spring 2003

Research by the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers shows that school groups raise $1.5 billion through product sales each year. Candy is the most popular item sold through these programs, making up roughly 25 percent of those sales. That's more than $400 million being spent on playground equipment, band uniforms and other school and extra-curricular activities. Candy sales are making an important contribution to help ensure the best educational experience possible for America's school children.

But the practice, innocent as it may seem, has recently raised eyebrows among some critics who claim that access to sodas and snack foods in schools is contributing to America's growing childhood obesity problem. Reacting to news reports about obesity in America, some states have even introduced legislation seeking to ban the sale of candy that might be consumed in schools. Are these concerns valid? And could there be other more reasonable, less reactive approaches?

Striking a Balance

No one disputes the importance of promoting the overall better health of America's children, but many wonder if banning certain foods – and undermining school fundraising efforts in the process – is the answer. Many experts suggest that obesity – its culprits and solutions – is far more complex.

“There isn't any one food – or food category – that caused the nation's obesity problem and punishing any one food certainly won't solve it,” according to Dr. Lonnie Davis, chair of the department of exercise and sport science at Eastern Kentucky University. In a recent letter to the editor of a local newspaper, Davis suggests school students might be better served by focusing on improving physical and nutrition education programs.

“Only one state, Illinois, has mandatory daily physical activity for students” writes Davis, despite widespread acceptance among health experts that regular exercise is essential to overall good health.

Alison Kretser, M.S., R.D. agrees: “Numerous studies have shown that obesity is related to any number of lifestyle choices and habits. Pointing fingers and assigning blame to any single food or beverage won't answer any of our questions about obesity and weight loss. Instead, we need a more balanced approach, focused on providing sound nutrition information to parents, students and teachers; encouraging and funding more physical education and recreational opportunities; and funding the research we need to determine ways to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.”

Krester is a spokesperson for the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, a group of food and beverage companies, not-for-profit organizations, and trade associations working together to improve the health of all Americans – particularly youth – by encouraging a healthy balance between fitness and nutrition.

As health officials and policymakers grapple with childhood obesity and how best to fix it, school officials, students and parent groups will continue to struggle with the day-to-day pressure of limited budgets and how to pay for important programs.

It seems reasonable that, if the keys to good health are exercise and balanced diet, school and parent group leaders can take the same equally balanced approach to fund-raising decisions.

Be Cool. Chill Out. Refrigerate Promptly.

Fall 2001

For decades, product sales have reigned as the fundraising method of choice for most small non-profit organizations.

However, the choice of products available to the fundraising chairperson today has grown exponentially, reading like a What's What in consumer goods. In fundraising drives across the country, the ever-popular candy, magazines and wrapping paper are found alongside everything from non-perishable cheese and sausage to light bulbs, birdseed, fresh fruit, tee shirts and scads of gift items.

Now refrigerated and frozen foods - from pizza and cheesecakes to cookie dough - are gaining popularity in the parade of products sold for fundraising purposes. These products bring with them a whole new set of distribution and handling considerations. As a fundraising decision-maker, your primary goal, of course, is to conduct a smooth, profitable fundraiser. But don't lose sight of the fact that the foods sold through a fundraising drive are still intended for people to eat and enjoy, safely.

"There's a misperception that foods sold for fundraising purposes are indestructible," reports Jim Messina, a New Jersey-based supplier of frozen foods for the fundraising market. According to Messina and others in the business of manufacturing and distributing frozen cookie dough, cheesecakes, pizzas and other frozen food items, the parameters for preserving these increasingly popular fundraising items are no different from products purchased from the grocer. Tom Lundeen, another frozen food supplier based in Iowa agrees, "When you buy ice cream at the corner supermarket, you don't leave it in the trunk for two days."

Products sold through non-profit groups for the purpose of fundraising usually make one or more extra stops before they reach the consumer. Therefore, care should be taken throughout the fundraising distribution chain to see that the final product is safe and delicious. The key is good planning, communication and teamwork.

A professional fundraising company/representative with experience in dealing with frozen foods should be able to guide you and your volunteers through the process.

Product Quality, Packaging and Labeling

Focus some of your early questions on the products themselves. Find out as much as you can about the source.

  • Is the product made by a reputable processor following good manufacturing practices? Check the ingredient statement. If the product (e.g. cookie dough) contains eggs, be sure they are pasteurized.
  • Are the products properly packaged and clearly labeled? Are the individual containers properly sealed and tamper-evident? Do the labels carry storage and handling instructions?
  • What about the outer carton (which holds multiple containers)? There should be easy-to-read handling instructions (such as "Keep frozen or refrigerated") to remind volunteers to store product in cool areas while awaiting pick-up.
  • What assurances do the manufacturer and/or fundraising company offer that the product will be properly handled along its route before your group takes possession?

Proper Transportation

A frozen food product made with high quality ingredients, under strict manufacturing guidelines and properly labeled can still suffer if it isn't transported under proper temperature controls. According to USDA, bacteria multiple rapidly between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit. Foods left to sit in this "danger zone" for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90° F) may be at risk. While most cookie dough manufacturers claim that these products (made with pasteurized eggs) may be left unrefrigerated for longer periods, it is still recommended that all refrigerated foods be shipped at or below 40° F and frozen foods shipped at 0° F.

When considering adding frozen foods to your fundraising drive, ask the company how the product will be transported from the manufacturer to the organization.

  • Will frozen food trucks be utilized? If not, what measures will be taken to ensure the product remains refrigerated or frozen?
  • Will the fundraising company take possession of the product before it reaches your facility? If so, will the product be placed in cold storage at or near the company's warehouse or facility?

Delivery-Day Strategies

Delivery day is a critical point in assuring a successful fundraising drive, particularly when perishable food items are involved.

"Knowing the delivery time and knowing that you can count on that not to change drastically is the single biggest issue," according to Dave Simons, a Maryland-based manufacturer and distributor of frozen food for fundraising. Richard Glass, another manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, agrees. "Groups should carefully choose delivery times and communicate to the parents to be sure the product is picked-up," he says. Here are a few strategies they suggest when working with frozen food products:

  • Send reminder letters two to three days in advance of the delivery with specific dates and times for product pick-up. And then again the day before and the day of delivery. Stress the importance of being on time, allowing no more than a four to five hour window for final pick-up.
  • Select the coldest location available (out of direct sunlight and heat) as the point of distribution.
  • Use space blankets and/or sleeping bags to insulate the product during the unloading process. If dry ice is used in the shipping process, it requires extreme caution and should be handled only by experienced carriers.
  • Have a plan in place for short-term freezer storage for products that are not picked-up. (Most school cafeterias will provide temporary freezer space. Local supermarkets may also be willing to provide short-term assistance.)
  • To quickly contact no-shows, have on hand the phone numbers of all parents scheduled to pick-up product.
  • As orders are picked-up, remind parents to put the products in the freezer as soon as possible. It may be a good idea to include a written reminder with every order.

Executing a successful fundraiser with a frozen food product may require a few special considerations, but it is easily done when working with an experienced fundraising professional working with a reputable supplier. And the rewards are worth it!

Ask a Pro: About Holiday Shops

Fall 2001

A holiday shop is a seasonal "store" at school where students can make holiday purchases, selecting from an assortment of inexpensive gift items sold on consignment by the sponsoring parent group.

Though parent groups are free to mark up the items, most run the program as a service to students and families - not to raise funds. Many fundraising companies offer, in addition to their regular programs, a turn-key holiday shop package which typically includes tips for a successful event, promotional materials, bags, tablecloths, signage and, of course, the merchandise itself. We asked a couple of these companies for suggestions on what else parent groups should look for in a holiday shop.

Look for a variety of products. Is there something for kids? Men? Ladies? Pets? Are you able to select the items yourself? How many items will be sent and on what basis? Find out what the company's policy is on restocking. Can items be restocked overnight?

- Dave Mattice, Telford, PA

Holiday shops are designed to provide a positive experience for ALL children of ALL income levels. There should be four of five items in each price range - from .50 cents up to $10 or $15, with most of the items costing less than $3.

- Dan Doerfling, Tampa, FL

Spotlight on Online Fundraising

Fall 2000

The latest form of fundraising to emerge is an online version of the retail mall with schools and other non-profit groups receiving rebates based on online purchases made by their supporters. This new twist on product sales is attracting attention and raising new questions for schools and non-profit groups who must make fundraising decisions.

More than two dozen online fundraising companies have formed in the last year. Schools and other non-profits are testing the new waters. Approximately eight percent of schools have alliances with an online fundraising company, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The Washington Post recently reported that one of the largest company's in this young (and now crowded) field boasts a customer base of 17,000 schools who have netted only $1 million - an average of $53 per school. By comparison, traditional product fundraising raises an average $13,000 per school. Online fundraising is not a replacement for traditional product fundraising, experts say. But as more and more consumers do more shopping online, it's expected that fundraising online will grow as well. For now, most groups approach online fundraising as a natural extension of their existing fundraising efforts.

The National PTA, PTO Today and a number of industry watchers, suggest non-profit organizations considering online fundraising keep the following points in mind:

  • Online fundraising appears to be less labor-intensive and, therefore, may require fewer volunteers. In most cases, there are no printed order forms; and, products are usually shipped directly to the supporter. However, sponsoring groups are still required to help promote the site.
  • Online fundraising offers flexibility, allowing family and friends to go online anywhere, anytime to make a purchase. But because some people may not have Internet access, there may be fewer potential buyers than with a traditional product sale.
  • Online fundraising companies are still quite young and the market appears to be getting crowded. While buyers usually benefit from competition, experts warn that rebates may soon begin to shrink as these competing companies fight to compensate for reduced profits.

When interviewing online fundraising companies, experts suggest applying the same rigorous research as you would when evaluating a traditional fundraising company. In addition, they recommend non-profit groups:

  • Clarify the percentage of the rebate being offered. For example, if a company claims to offer 70 percent, does that actually mean 70 percent of the 5 percent rebate provided by the retailer? Also different retailers on a given site may offer different rebates.
  • Find out if there is a minimum amount of money that must be reached before the vendor issues a check.

    If so, find out what that amount is and what time period there is for reaching that minimum. Also ask about what happens to the money if your group doesn't reach that minimum.
  • Check out the company's Web site and technology. Is it easy for a supporter to navigate and make purchases? How are rebates tracked?
  • Ask about the company's privacy policy. Do users have to provide info on themselves and /or their children? Will their names and personal data be sold to others? Most electronic commerce sites display their privacy policies. If there is no formal policy, it's fairly safe to assume that the company is willing to share its database for the right price.
  • Find out how much support your school will receive from the online company. Some have customer service representatives who can provide help by phone, e-mail or in-person. Many offer printed materials to help promote the fundraiser.
  • Ask for references. Because most online fundraising sites are still young, results are hard to come by. But it's still a good idea to talk to some of their current customers about service and overall shopping experience.

Product Quality Counts

Spring 1997

When selecting a product fundraising program, the first and foremost consideration should be the quality of the product because:

Nothing builds loyalty and repeat business like a reputation for offering top-quality fundraising products.

High-quality fundraising products project a positive image about a school or organization and are less likely to create dissatisfied customers.

People like to sell what they like to buy. High-quality fundraising products sell best and generales higher sales volume, because volunteers get enthused about selling them.

High quality products are most likely to come from top-quality companies.

Look, touch, and taste. Although it is not always possible, the best way to establish product quality is to see a sample. If sampling isn't possible, scrutinize catalogs and brochures carefully and ask questions before you order the products.

Parent and teachers, school fundraisers
Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers (AFRDS)