With a unanimous Friday vote by its board of education, Oklahoma has taken the lead in setting the highest number of state-approved exemptions for food fundraisers under new federal school nutrition rules.
As you’ll recall, the new “Smart Snacks in Schools” competitive food rules set limits on calories, fat, and sodium for all foods offered during the day at schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. That means items sold in vending machines, on a la carte lines, and in food-based school fundraisers are being regulated for the first time, a move that has raised the hackles of some politicians.
But the regulations allow each state to allow schools to exempt a certain number of fundraisers from the rules each year. That has calmed the concerns of some school leaders and cafeteria managers, who say the revenue is necessary to balance tight food service budgets and to fund student activities. As this page from the National Association of State Boards of Education shows, many states have declined to allow any exemptions at all. Some others have voted to allow a small number of non-compliant fundraisers (Utah, for example, set the limit at three).
So what did Oklahoma do? Board members voted to allow 30 exempt fundraisers per semester and to allow those fundraisers to last as long as 14 days each, according to an article in The Oklahoman. Let’s see...30 times 14 is 420 days. So that means the Smart Snacks rules basically don’t apply to school fundraisers in the Sooner State. And it seems like that was the board’s intent.
“Board member Bill Price said he wanted the exemptions to be as broad as possible,” The Oklahoman reports. “ ‘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.’ ”
With that vote, Oklahoma’s exemptions exceed those of the previous leaders Georgia and Tennessee, which had already voted to exempt 30 fundraisers per year from the standards.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.