Does Box Tops for Education promote junk food?
Our friend and former colleague Dalia Colon has another interesting story over on HealthyState.org, about the hugely successful Box Tops for Education program. Started in 1996, it has contributed about $400 million to American schools. I will admit if I have two cake mixes to choose from, I'll pick the one with box top because I see how much my son's school has gotten from it.
But does it encourage families to buy junk food? Box Tops started with General Mills cereals and has expanded to include more than 200 food and non-food products, from Green Giant broccoli to Bisquick baking mix to Hi-Liter markers. But, as the story notes, many of the participating products are far from a health teacher’s dream: Betty Crocker SuperMoist cake mixes, Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch, Pillsbury Big Deluxe Cookies, Spider-Man Fruit Flavored Shapes.
To the schools, it's free money, an average of about $787 per school spend on everything from books to art supplies to air conditioning repairs.
But Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit that educates the public about food choices, says food-based fundraisers are disingenuous. “Of course it’s up to people what to buy, but it’s not responsible for companies to be marketing unhealthy foods to children,” Wootan said.
Wooten whishes schools would sell bottled water, plants, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, discount cards or calendars instead of cookie dough and junk food. They could also organize fun runs or auctions to bring in lots of money at once, as opposed to letting the dimes trickle in from Box Tops.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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