| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The bake sale – the venerable school fundraiser – as many people know it, is now a thing of the past in Springfield Public Schools.
The School Committee conducted the first vote in approving the district Wellness Policy on Feb. 14. That policy sets the rules governing nutrition, health education and physical education and activity for students.
One of those rules involves bake sales, which have long been used by classrooms and Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) to raise money. As Superintendent Daniel Warwick explained the bake sales must now only take place a half-hour after dismissal and can only sell to adult to adult.
The provisions of the policy “prohibit food sold in competition in with school meals, including food-based fundraiser and vending machines during school meals times.”
Another rule was required the district to encourage “non-food alternatives for school fundraisers, school parties and classroom celebrations.”
Patrick Roach, the head of The Office of Business and Financial Services for the district, explained the schools cannot sell any “competing food.” The restriction is a requirement of the federal government and would jeopardize the $23 million in federal funding for the district’s breakfast and lunch program.
A further problem with bake sales is the issue of food allergies, noted the committee’s attorney, Melinda Phelps.
Warwick noted that PTOs have begun to shift to selling items other than food for fundraisers. He added that school principals have been working with their PTOs in developing fundraising programs.
The Wellness Policy is very specific about which food can be served to students. Only water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice can be served or sold and plain water must be made available to students through the school day free of charge.
Other requirements include:
• Milk must of 1 percent or fat free.
• Food must not contain no more than 200 calories per item.
• All foods shall be trans-fat free.
• All items must contain no more than trace amounts of caffeine.
• No food shall contain artificial sweeteners.
• No foods shall be prepared with the use of fryolators.
The School Committee also congratulated the staff of the Gerena School for its most recent academic performance. Warwick said, “[The school] exceeded all of expectations with new accountability system.”
He continued, “The incredible results speak to the leadership of the school, the teachers and parents.”
The new accountability tests are “very tough,” Warwick said.
Cynthia Escribano, the school’s principal, called the school’s success was a collaborative effort that came from teachers, paraprofessionals and students pledging to be “a better version of the person they were yesterday.”
The committee also approved the adoption of “Barrows Buddies Safe Routes to School.” This safety program will be taught to second graders and Warwick said, “It is really a great initiative we’re going to implement.”
The curriculum is named in honor of the late Michelle Barrows, a crossing guard in East Springfield who was struck by a car in 2018.