Selling health: Explore alternatives to unhealthy fundraisers
School fundraising does not have to consist only of selling candy and cookie dough. It can be used as reinforcement of health education being taught in schools – think creatively and healthfully!
Depending on the district of your child’s school, fundraising may be a big part of the school year. Many schools depend on funds raised to supplement their budgets and pay for field trips, playground equipment, upgrades to technology, classroom supplies, etc. Traditionally, many fundraisers have had students selling unhealthy foods and beverages full of empty calories and added sugar and fat. As the conversation about children’s health has become a national priority, it is time to look at how we surround our children with healthy messages – or unhealthy messages – at home, school and in the community.
Consider this: by selling foods that do not support healthy choices, the message sent to students is that money is more important than health. Most school staff would agree that student health is essential for any good learner. Now is the time to draw connections between everything done in the school environment and the home environment to ensure that children are not receiving mixed messages.
The Michigan Nutrition Standards have put together an entire toolkit to help schools create healthier environments for staff and students. Here are some fundraising ideas from the toolkit that support physical activity and health:
- Fun Run
- Dances (family-oriented)
- Bowling night
- Skate night
- Golf tournament
- Teacher/student games (volleyball, basketball, etc.)
- Parent/student games
- Fun Olympics
- Car wash
- Treasure or scavenger hunt
Of course, with change often comes resistance. Before you think about changing fundraisers at your school, survey the school community (parents, staff and students) about the current fundraisers to find out others’ thoughts, ideas and concerns surrounding the topic. Make sure to have a few alternative fundraisers to offer in placement of the current ones. You may find more people ready to change than what you assumed!
Making one change at a time is another good idea. Rather than tackling both the fall and spring fundraiser at the same time, choose just one! Once everyone sees how successful and fun the alternative was, you will have some buy-in and momentum built to change both.
Make sure to reach out to new parents; fundraisers are often coordinated through the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). For specific events with specific needs, send out a notice to all parents. Parents may not be available for a monthly PTO meeting, but would be more than willing to count laps at your walk-a-thon event.
Happy, healthy fundraising!