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Many States Yet to Adopt Fundraising Exemption for School Nutrition Rules

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August 26, 2014

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Many States Yet to Adopt Fundraising Exemption for School Nutrition Rules

As the new school year quickly approaches, less than half of states have taken advantage of a special fundraising exemption from the new federal rules governing nutritional standards for foods sold in schools. Under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), these new rules—authorized by the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010—will require all “competitive foods,” which are any foods sold to students in schools other than the federally reimbursed school lunch and breakfast, to meet strict nutritional requirements beginning in the 2014-15 school year. Though intended by Congress to target snack foods sold in vending machines, a la carte lines and school stores, these regulations will impact many students in CTE programs that operate school-based enterprises (SBE), including student-run cafés, bakeries and catering businesses. 

The law does include an exemption for competitive foods sold as part of an “infrequent” school-sponsored fundraiser. To meet the “infrequent” standard set by the HHFKA, the USDA mandates that there must be a limit on the number of exempt fundraisers that may be held during the school year. The USDA has pointed to the fundraiser exemption as an option for CTE programs that do not currently sell foods that meet the nutritional requirements. However, it is left to each state to establish its own rules to govern the number of exempt fundraisers allowed.  If the state does not specify the exemption frequency, then no fundraiser exemption will be granted by the USDA. The School Nutrition Association reports that 30 states do not currently have an exemption limit in place, which will result in no exemptions for schools in those states by default.

The USDA recently sent a letter to state school officials with additional guidance on the fundraiser exemption. In states that have established a limit on exempt fundraisers, districts may request additional number of fundraisers to be granted at the state’s discretion. States also have the authority to modify their policy if needed. For states that have not yet established their exemption limit, there is no deadline to implement their policy and they may elect to do so at any time.

If you believe your CTE program could benefit from this exemption, please contact your state department of education for more information.

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