Schools across Oklahoma can continue selling food at fundraisers, officials rule

10/18/14 NewsOK: Schools across Oklahoma can continue selling food at fundraisers, officials rule

Oklahoma students can continue with their fundraising efforts as in years past after state Board of Education members Friday granted exemptions in a federal law monitoring snacks in schools.

State Board of Education members Friday granted exemptions to a federal law that was prohibiting students across Oklahoma from selling food at school fundraisers.

Brian Hunter, Edmond North High School teacher and student council adviser, took the question before the state board after he learned that his school’s annual BALTO fundraiser would be affected by the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that says students cannot sell food to raise money without an exemption from the state.

The law applies to all food sold to students outside of school meal programs, on campus and at any time during the school day. The school day is defined as from midnight to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day.

The three Edmond high schools raised more than $1 million last year for various charities.

Edmond North’s mascot is a husky dog, and a sugary treat called “puppy chow” is among the foods sold to raise money during BALTO Week.

Deer Creek’s Wonderful Week of Fundraising, the school’s charity week, raised $90,130 last year, said Jason Stephenson, Deer Creek High School teacher and student council sponsor.

Stephenson and Hunter estimated each of their schools would take a $40,000-plus hit on this year’s fundraisers.

They weren’t alone. Every school in the state was facing the same situation.

Students, teachers and administrators from Deer Creek, Norman, John Marshal and Edmond crowded into the board meeting room to show their support of the board granting exemptions.

Board members were already convinced before hearing a presentation from Hunter and Joanie Hildebrand, assistant state schools superintendent.

The board unanimously agreed to allow 30 fundraiser exemptions per school site per semester for a period of 14 days each, for every school district in the state. No fundraiser can be held during the school breakfast, school lunch and after school snack programs. Each district will develop its own process for implementation of the policy.

Board member Bill Price said he wanted the exemptions to be as broad as possible.

“My initial reaction was to have everything exempted,” Price said. “I want to leave it up to the school district. I want the local district to have control.”

The unanimous vote came with Hunter voicing concern that the board’s exemptions might be too broad. He said schools should be mindful of what the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act set out to do, which is to establish standards for all food and drinks sold on school campuses.

Hunter was proposing one fundraiser per year, per school building, not lasting more than five consecutive school days. Items could not be sold until 30 minutes after the last meal service.

Students left the board meeting clapping, smiling and jumping with joy because their longtime fundraisers can go on again this year.

“It went better than we ever, ever expected,” said Rachel Funderburk, Edmond North High School student and 2015 BALTO chairman. “It is a blessing. Everyone will be so glad. The student body will be so happy.”

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