Candy Fundraising in Schools

School fundraising ideas have been affected to a small degree by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Some schools, school boards, administrators and Parent-Teacher Organizations have made the mistake of believing that the HHFKA completely restricts the kinds of fundraisers they can hold. This Act goes along with stronger nutrition standards for the breakfasts and lunches our school children eat every day. Because the Act was written with the intent of encouraging healthy eating habits, foods sold by concession stands and snack bars during school hours are affected. As long as fundraising sales take place off school grounds and outside school hours, students can sell candy, fruit or prepared cookie dough.

What the Act Does 

The HHFKA doesn’t cut out candy fundraisers. Instead, it requires that the foods students eat should contain certain nutrients. The Act also limits how much sugar, fat and salt students can eat in their lunches, breakfasts and snacks while on campus. The intention of the Act is to encourage our children to make healthier food choices, according to PTO Today.

This Act also restricts the beverages students can drink while on campus. These include sports drinks in elementary and middle schools. In high schools, students can drink small amounts of calorie-free and low-calorie sodas. As long as the serving size of a sports drink is small, high school students can drink these as well.

Vending machine sales are affected by HHFKA. The beverages, foods and snacks sold from vending machines during school hours must meet the new nutritional standards. PTOs are able to request assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture for help in choosing vending choices that meet the new nutritional standards. The USDA, along with the nutrition manager in each school district can identify nutritious snack choices that students may enjoy eating and drinking.

The HHFKA was sent to President Obama, who signed it, because of concerns about the effects of unhealthy eating on our children. Obesity caused by unhealthy eating leads to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, according to the USDA. Some students would rather snack on chips, soda, baked goodies and candy than they would on fruits or vegetables. Now that fundraising sales are restricted to hours when school is not in session, students who want to eat may be more likely to choose the salads, low fat milk or lean protein selections. In addition, if sugary foods aren’t available, students have to make healthier food choices if they want to eat.

When schools promote healthy eating, but allow fatty, unhealthy foods to be sold on campus, this sends conflicting messages to the students.

Students can receive several benefits as their schools change their cafeteria, food vending and fundraising policies:

º Consistent messaging – When students see that their fundraisers are selected in compliance with HHFKA, they see the same message being delivered: “What you sell to your family and friends should be just as nutritious as what you eat.”

º Increased learning ability – Children who eat healthy foods learn more easily. They re also better able to behave appropriately in the classroom and on the playground.

º Children spend their days in a healthy school environment – they will learn from a positive role model if that role model is making healthy lifestyle choices. This extended to fundraising – once children have been exposed to healthy food choices, they may gravitate more easily to fruit sales.

Bake Sales and Selling That Candy 

Teachers, PTOS and students can schedule and hold bake sales within limits, according to PTO Today. These sales can see sweetened beverages and desserts. HHFKA passes the authority to each state to establish its own “reasonable threshold” for how many fundraisers they will allow individual schools to hold on school grounds.

This portion of the Act also covers candy sales. Under the Act, candy fundraisers must take place outside the school campus and outside school hours. Teachers and PTO members are able to distribute order forms and candy orders on school grounds – with the caveat that the candy will be eaten away from the school.

What about cookie doughs and popcorn? These fall under this provision of HHFKA – they can be sold, distributed and eaten off school grounds. School fundraisers for canopies, playground equipment or other needed school items won’t be negatively affected by this act.

What States Can Do Under the Act 

According to the USDA, states will hold a significant part of the responsibility for ensuring their schools and school districts will maintain mandated nutrition standards.  This is what they are can do:

º Establish exempt school-sponsored fundraisers based on their fundraising needs.

º Hold as many fundraisers as they need as long as the foods meet HHFKA nutrition standards. These fundraisers can also include non-food items.

º Decide what to sell at events held outside school hours, such as for games, plays and music events. The Act applies only to foods and beverages sold on the campus during school hours.

Misconceptions About the HHFKA 

º The School Bake Sale Banned! HHFKA carved bake sales out of the new rules, knowing that schools relied heavily on bake sales to raise funds for needed equipment or planned events. Some politicians claimed that, despite the assurances of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, bake sales would, indeed, be banned, according to The Lunch Tray. The outcry grew so much that Vilsack sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, sending the message to the general public that bake sales do fall under special exemptions.

º Smart Snacks rules and . . . Bake Sales. This rule went into effect in the summer of 2014, resurrecting the fear that bake sales were on their way out. Again, Vilsack had to write an article, which appeared in Huffington Post. This article served to remind HuffPo readers that each state is able to establish reasonable numbers of bake sales for their schools.

º State lawmakers called the rules an “overreach of the federal government.” The Georgia Board of Education voted to allow every school in Georgia to hold 30 fundraisers per year, each lasting three days. This means that each school in Georgia will spend 1/2 of the academic year selling junk food items.

º BAKE SALE Act – The Bringing Awareness and Knowledge to Exempt Schools Against Legislative Encroachment Act doesn’t allow funds to be used to implement HHFKA when it concerns bake sales and school fundraisers. Texas State Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said that parents would have to determine how many calories, sugar, sodium and fat are in the items they bake for a school fundraiser. This is untrue.

Non-Food Fundraising Ideas 

It isn’t necessary to take order forms and get family or friends to order candy, cookie dough or popcorn. Walk-A-Thons and Run-a-Thons are both effective – and healthy – fundraising options. According to the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, Boosterthon is available for schools. Schools apply to this organization to sponsor a planned event. Boosterthon does all the work, freeing teachers, parents and PTOs to do their own work.

Maine’s Department of Education has developed a list of its own fundraising activities. These include non-food fundraisers and academic fundraisers.

Each school is free to select and decide on how many and what kind of school fundraising ideas it will approve throughout the school year. While schools can still hold candy fundraisers under certain limitations, other types of fundraisers and ideas are out there:

º Rent-a-Youth Day. Staff members or parents can pay the PTO to have several students come to several homes to help with yard work, cleaning, painting or other needed work.

º Car wash. Pre-sell tickets and secure a parking lot for a day’s wet, splashy fun.

º Dog wash. Again, pre-sell tickets, get space at a park and wash dogs all day.

º School carnival. Invite students, families and the public to buy tickets and play games.

º Cleaning yards. This would work better with middle schoolers and high schoolers. Decide what kind of yard cleanups will be offered, how much to charge and what participating students should say to homeowners.

º Coffee deliveries. Schools can partner with a local coffee shop on a fundraising deal, take orders and collect the money, suggests the Oregon Association of Student Councils. On delivery day, pick up the coffee and deliver it to teachers who ordered. This requires a split with the coffee shop, with the school earning a percentage of sales.

º Math-a-Thon. Family and friends can pledge money for each math problem that participating students solve. Have the equation solving go on for a set period of time.

º Hold a fashion boutique to raise needed funds for school needs or upcoming events. Families can donate unused clothing – especially formalwear that is no longer being used. Price each item of clothing at a bargain basement price and sell it as-is. This type of fundraiser nets a school or school organization a 100 percent profit.


While the HHFKA has had an effect on schools planning and holding fundraisers, it doesn’t completely ban the sale of sweet snacks and candies as long as each school complies with certain rules. In fact, schools can still raise needed funds with fundraising efforts not centered around snacks or foods.