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Candy Conflict: Rules, Nutrition, and Money Clash
Share Voice of Experience

Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! moment in the classroom in the Education World Voice of Experience column. This week, educator Kathleen Modenbach reflects on how the administration in her school turned off the candy machines during lunch periods -- then turned around and gave school clubs the right to sell candy at that time. Funny -- selling candy creates potential conflicts with school rules. Not so funny because teachers have to deal with sugar highs and sugar lows. "Can the candy!" Modenbach says. Included: Some candy-selling alternatives plus an opportunity to join a discussion about candy sales on school time and to share fund-raising alternatives that your school has found.


I was excited to see the candy machines at my school turned off during lunch periods this year. After all, students need a nutritious meal to get through an afternoon of classes. The lure of sweets and junk food proved too strong. It was no match for the cafeteria fare, so students often poured their lunch money into those machines. Shutting down the machines was a wise decision.

Now, however, student organizations have been given the right to sell candy during lunch periods in order to raise money for their clubs. The competition is stiff to be one of nine organizations granted a one-month gig that carries a potential for $300 in daily sales.

What have we done? Club sponsors have taken the place of machines. A green light has been given for the sweet intruder's return.

This problem is not unique to my school. Selling candy and other items to earn money for school activities has been a long-standing source of controversy in many schools and school districts. Now, the lure of money is clashing with established rules about eating candy in school. Sure, a treat after lunch is always nice. What about the obvious nutrition issues that lunchtime candy sales raise, though?

Students skip lunch, opting to get through the afternoon on a candy bar. My colleagues and I face afternoon classes full of kids who are high on sugar or lethargic after the sugar low sets in. Many of them see no benefit in a nutritious meal.

Recently, our school held a blood drive with the local blood bank. After interviewing a group of potential student donors, blood bank workers announced school-wide that students must eat before giving blood. A candy bar is not a meal, they said rather forcefully.

Increasingly, students also munch on these school-bought sweets during class. Because eating candy in class is against school rules, teachers find themselves in an awkward position. Should we punish the kids? That might be complicated; the administration that made the no-candy-in-class rule condones the candy sales. Although I don't allow eating in class, I find myself less than energetic about enforcing the rule.

Several options are open to schools that want to maintain nutritious lunch periods and avoid the conflict between cash and candy:

  • Sell candy after school. That way it is less likely to replace lunch. Kids will take it home or eat it on the bus.
  • Relax candy-eating restrictions in selected areas where kids congregate after school.
  • Require clubs to sell more nutritious snacks at lunchtime. Fruit, popcorn, nuts, and yogurt come to mind.
  • Can the lunchtime sales, and urge clubs to return to such traditional fund-raisers as car washes.

Raising additional funds for school programs is not a new issue, but allowing fund-raisers to conflict with established school rules and nutrition issues creates additional problems for everybody involved.

Kathleen Modenbach is an English teacher in Louisiana's St. Tammany Parish Schools. She teaches at Northshore High School and writes for The Times Picayune in New Orleans.