Bake sales: The new boogeyman

Is this apple crumble really all that bad?

Is this apple crumble really all that bad?

I am all for kids eating healthier and eating less.  But I feel like political correctness has completely prevailed over common sense and a sense of fun when bake sales become the bad guy of school fundraisers.  I’ve seen this gastronomic nanny state at work in Australia and it’s also sweeping some state legislatures in the U.S. according to this article from the New York Times.

First, let me say that the schools are right in saying bake sales shouldn’t happen during school hours.  But the ban on bake sales at schools seems like we’re heading down that slippery slope of banning bake sales altogether, and that would be a shame for a number of reasons.  One is that it forces kids to do those awful holiday gift tins and knick-knack sales.  What a bunch of crap that is.  I used to run and hide at work when parents would come towards my cubicle with one of those order forms.  Honestly, they’d have better luck trying to sell me asbestos earmuffs.

But seriously, when did bake sales go bad?  Schools and other organizations have been having bake sales for decades and I don’t recall seeing any evidence that they made kids fat.  Kids are fat today because of sugary drinks, too little exercise, and a preponderance of crap food made with ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.  No, bake sales aren’t part of the childhood obesity problem.  In fact, I think they could be part of the solution, and here’s why:

1) They are wholesome.  If I were to bake something for a bake sale, I’d probably make something like the ever popular brownie.  The ingredients:  butter, chocolate or cocoa, sugar, eggs, flour, a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla.  I can pronounce every single one of those ingredients.  I know what they are, unlike some of the ingredients in oh, say, the PowerBar mentioned in the NY Times piece as a “healthy” snack which contains ingredients like soy lecithin, soy protein isolate and fractionated palm kernal oil.  In fact, I think wholesome treats made with real ingredients are actually more satisfying than processed food.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I can easily be satisfied after eating a couple of homemade chocolate chip cookes, but could down practically a whole bag of oreos and still want more.

2) They promote community.  When a school or a club has a bake sale, it usually requires parents to get involved with their kids, with the schools, with other parents, and with bake sale patrons.  It requires communication and organization.  In fact, bake sales are probably more trouble than they are worth, monetarily speaking.  But if a bake sale helps build community relationships, then that’s worth more than every cent raised.  Participating in something like a bake sale can make you realize it’s actually fun to get out of the house and get away from the TV and computer and get involved in life!

3) They are a good learning tool for kids.  There is little value for kids in the yearly Christmas knick-knack sale.  Parents take the order forms to work and that’s the last the kids ever see of that project until they hand the order form back in.  On the other hand, bake sales can be used to teach kids cooking skills, math skills (converting recipes, counting change for customers), and customer relation skills when they help man the bake sale table.  As far as healthy habits go, learning to cook is a great way for kids to get a concept of what goes into their food, which is key to healthy eating.  Let me tell you, when I bake and see all the butter I put into a batch of brownies, I’m much more likely to take a small portion because I know just how many calories are in them.

So let’s quit vilifying bake sales.  They aren’t an every day event.  They are not responsible for obesity. Come on people.  Get a life and get baking.

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