The season of school fundraisers has begun. Last week my son brought home his fundraising info package from school, full of glossy flyers advertising chocolate, cookie dough, baking and spice mixes, bizarre kitchen implements (plastic cheese labellers? pot lid holders?), cheap jewelry, and fragrance-laden candles. An accompanying letter urged me to shop in order to support the school’s campaign, and to encourage all my friends and family to shop as well.
I do not. I am that parent who takes one look at the fundraising info package and tosses it straight into the recycling bin. No matter how much I would love to support the school’s fundraising campaign, I am not willing to waste my money on overpriced, over-packaged, imported products, especially non-fair trade chocolate, that – in my opinion – reinforces our cultural addiction to sugary junk food and our tendency to buy cheap crap that will eventually end up in a landfill nearby.
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time for school fundraisers to undergo a serious makeover. I was very happy to recently discover a new organization called FarmRaiser that is on a mission to reinvest school fundraisers. This ingenious company, currently operating in Michigan and Washington states with plans to expand as interest grows, wants to “restore value and purpose to an annual ritual that has lost its way in a sea of sugar and junk food.”
Instead of the usual list of fundraising items, FarmRaiser offers alternative and far healthier selections that include apples, maple syrup, dried cherries, bread, coffee, artisanal pasta, and honey. Produced by local food vendors, this means that 90 percent of profits stays within a community, reinforcing the local economy. Kids become real-food advocates, selling products that they can feel proud of marketing. Their families discover a wonderful world of local food production that they may want to support further, after the campaign has ended.
There is no reason why local, healthy food cannot be part of school fundraisers; it just means that participating families have to be willing to break out of the rut in which they’re currently stuck. By continuing to use our children to market and sell junk food, we inadvertently reinforce the poor eating habits that many schools and parents are trying to reverse. It makes no sense – but there is an alternative, as FarmRaiser has demonstrated, and it’s time for us to take that leap if we ever want to salvage our food system.
You can bet I’ll be presenting this idea to Parent Council long before next year’s fundraising season begins!