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Regulating kids’ sweet tooth: Bills in Lansing allow fundraisers feds deem unhealthy

Ian Contreras
Creative Commons

This school year, the federal government outlawed the sale of certain snack foods in schools. The idea behind the new guidelineswas to improve kids’ health.

But it’s hurt many student organizations that use bake sales to raise money for clubs, athletics and field trips.

Snacks sold to students during the school day can’t have too much fat, sugar or salt. No more than 200 calories in total.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, says he started getting complaints when the school year started.

“I’ve read the constitution a few times. I don’t recall anything in there about enumerated power for the federal government to regulate the snacking habits of little kids,” Colbeck said with a laugh, “There’s nothing in there on that.”

Colbeck’s bill would allow schools to host up to three “unhealthy” snack sales a week. The bill has 19 Republican co-sponsors. State Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, introduced another billwith the same basic intention earlier this month.

“For me it’s kind of a little bit of state’s rights. But frankly, it’s a little bit of common sense: what the heck are they getting inside our lunch pails for?” Colbeck said.

Michigan’s Department of Education could have allowed some exceptions from the federal rule. But the agency chose not to after discussing the issue with school leaders. MDE spokesman Bill DiSessa said the department got feedback from school leaders before making the decision.

“It was a collective decision to not allow the non-compliant fundraisers and prevent local districts from having to arbitrarily pick winners and losers amongst their own schools,” DiSessa wrote in an email.

Schools can opt out of the guidelines, but would lose federal funding for school lunches.

Disessa says the rule does not apply to bulk sales of snacks that are meant to be eaten later. That would include things like girl scout cookies, pizza kits and frozen cookie dough.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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