Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let 'Em NOT Eat Cake - UPDATED

Updated: Oct. 4, 5pm

GBN News reports: Bake Sale Ban Leaves Thompson Without Dough

Lots of discussion about the Bloomberg ban on cake sales in schools and vending machine contracts.

Parents comment:

Patrick Sullivan:

It looks like the Chancellor's reg was updated to protect the firms getting the new vending contracts.

The timing is interesting. The reg was issued on 6/29/2009, the very day the old schools governance law expired. I would have thought all the legal people at DOE were busy preparing for the transition. Someone carved out some time to lay out new rules clamping down on bake sales.

Here is a link for the reg A-812

The contract with two vendors for snacks and drinks is described in the big document for the PEP approval. It is item 13: It says that new guidelines for snacks in schools were issued as part of the Request for Proposals and snack sales would be vended centrally for the first time.

I'll get the RFP and send that out.


Steve Koss:
When I became involved as PTA President at MCSM high school in East Harlem, we took over a parent association that was dormant to the point of comatose, with about $300 in the bank and virtually no parent involvement. We used coffee and donuts (donated gratis by a local Dunkin Donuts shop) to help bring parents to our PTA table set up on Parent/Teacher Conference evening and days, and we used a cheesecake sale through Ashley Farms as one of our first halfway decent fundraisers. On those same parent conference nights, we'd see the cheerleaders with a table set up with homemade cakes/cupcakes, and the Advanced Science Research kids were doing the same thing upstairs on the building's third floor. Not to mention the various candy and other bake sales sponsored by the freshman class, the seniors, and various clubs.

These fundraisers not only bring in needed funds, they get kids involved working toward a common goal, and they usually end up integrating the parents into the activity in some way (if only by baking something at home). So as you've noted so well, this is just one more way for the DOE under Klein to assert control -- by removing it from parents and students -- under the absurd guise that they actually care about students' health. This is more than just government as overreaching mommy, it's a way to reduce local initiatives and parent involvement. It also perversely undercuts the various clubs and student activities that help make schools more than just educational factories and test prep mills, the things that differentiate schools from one another and make them attractive to parents. Why would we want public schools to look attractive when we have the choice of all these wonderful new, privately-operated charter schools?

The day will come when NY'ers will look back and wonder where their public school system went. By that time, we'll have McDonald's Elementary School and Nike High School.

Steve Koss

Dorothy Giglio:
It is very logical, this was one way the students/clubs and parent associations could raise money. If they can control all the money they can then control these groups. Not to mention bake sales are sometimes the first way you can get parents involved. It is something that brings them into the building and then they can be approached for other areas of involvement. If you stop them here you again diminish parent involvement. Very logical.

Leonie Haimson follows up:

Thanks Patrick; this brings up so many questions.

1- Why is the contract info only on a private intranet rather than the publicly accessible PEP webpage, like before? Do they not plan to make this available to the public beforehand?

2- So it is not only the case that Octagon received an inflated percentage for commission for selecting the vendor (was it 15-18%, I recall) but the vendor itself is provided with a monopoly of all snacks sold in schools, and thereby depriving students of a valuable source of revenue in the process? Not to mention the community building activities that Steve mentions below?

3- Was the regulation issued on the last day of the previous governance law so that it wouldn’t need to be approved by the Bd. Of Ed or a reconstituted PEP with new rules to approve regulations, in order to evade public scrutiny?

Also, though the snacks sold by the vendors are supposedly healthy, they cannot be bought any time during lunch or breakfast. For schools with extended lunch periods (like Francis Lewis, for example, where lunch starts at 8:15 in the morning) that essentially cuts them off during most of the entire day.

Schools seeking to use vending machines must use the DOE’s central contracts, which provide for machines equipped with timers.* The snack vending machine contractor will be required to set the timers to lock the machines during the breakfast meal and then again, during the lunch periods. Schools may not enter into vending machine or food and beverage purchase contracts with any other vendors. Snack vending machines may not be used in any schools serving grade levels pre-kindergarten (“PK”) through five (5).

See also:

Food and beverages sold in school stores must be purchased from the centrally approved contracts* and must come from the centrally approved list of food and beverage items that meet the food nutritional guidelines. School stores must not sell food items during breakfast and from the beginning of the firstlunch period until the end of the last lunch period.

These rules even restrict the PTA fundraising once a month that allows restricted food items in that this fundraising cannot occur until after the last lunch period – which again in many schools is very late in the day.

“However, the rule respecting the sale of non-approved food items may be lifted to permit the PA/PTA to raise funds using nonapproved food items once per month as long as the sale of the non-approved food items does not occur from the beginning of the school day until after the last lunch period.

Where is the list of approved food items?

The regulation links to the website of the Office of SchoolFood (“SchoolFood”) website: but I can’t find the list there.

Leonie Haimson


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