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Arizona Education Chief to Schools: Ignore Federal Nutrition Rules for Fundraisers

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Arizona's superintendent of public instruction this week gave schools in the Grand Canyon State permission to ignore new, first-of-their-kind federal nutrition standards for school fundraisers.

Like lawmakers and public officials in other states, Diane Douglas labeled the rules a federal overreach, the Associated Press reports. Unlike other state leaders, she responded to her concerns by granting schools an unlimited exemption from the rules.

"Forcing parents and other supporters of schools to only offer federally approved food and snacks at fundraisers is a perfect example of the overreach of government and intrusion into local control," Douglas said in a statement. "I have ordered effective immediately, that the ADE Health and Nutrition Services division grant exemptions for all fund-raisers for both traditional public schools and charter public schools."

The rules for school fundraisers are a part of the Smart Snacks in Schools competitive foods rules, which went into effect July 1. For the first time, the rules set limits on salt, fat, and sugars for all items schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs offer during the school day. That includes foods sold on a la cart lines, in vending machines, and in school fundraisers.

Lawmakers have taken aim at the fundraising provisions in particular, with some saying they will lead to an end to school bake sales.

The rules, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allow each state to exempt a certain number of fundraisers from the rules each school year. But the federal policy does not appear to allow for a blanket exemption. Some states have responded by setting high exemption numbers, leading me to label the exemption allowance "a loophole big enough for an ice cream truck" in a previous post. Georgia and Tennessee, for example, allow 30 fundraisers a year. 

Oklahoma took the lead in October, voting to allow 30 exemptions per semester and to allow those fundraisers to last as long as 14 days each.

But it's a big step for a state leader to tell schools to ignore the rules all together. New Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller took a similar step earlier this year when he declared "cupcake amnesty" and said that "the Texas Department of Agriculture has abolished all rules and guidelines that would stop a parent from bringing cupcakes, cookies or snacks to school," Fox News reported.

It seems some think allowing students to sell apple pie at school is as American as, well, apple pie. It will be interesting to see how the USDA responds.

Photo: iStockphoto

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