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New food policy could affect school fundraisers

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The Lawrence school board is considering a new policy that could cut into some fundraising activities like bake sales and pizza parties.

The policy would prohibit the sale of "competitive foods" — defined as any food or beverage service available to students that is separate and apart from the district’s nonprofit federally reimbursed food service program — from being sold at the same time schools are serving breakfast or lunch.

District officials say it's intended to address direct competition — pizza being sold when the cafeteria is serving pizza, or cake slices for sale when there's cake in the cafeteria. But the initial draft of the policy, which the board could vote to approve Feb. 10, would appear to apply to any type of food or beverage that's being offered at the same time as school meals.

In fact, districts throughout the United States are now looking at similar policies since the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new Smart Snacks in School guidelines about food sold in school vending machines, snack bars and other venues.

Lawrence officials, however, noted that Free State High School and South Middle School are the only school buildings in the district that have vending machines, and those are already turned off during breakfast and lunch periods.

And those machines already comply with the proposed federal guidelines, which ban certain kinds of junk foods and beverages that are high in sugar, salt or fat, while encouraging healthier options like fresh fruit, whole grains, juices and bottled water.

The proposed district policy would not affect food that students bring from home for their own consumption. It would also continue to allow snack foods and other items to be sold during nonmeal periods, or during nonschool hours. It also would not affect concessions sold at sporting events, plays or other after-school activities.

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