Healthy food compromise

In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 file photo, students are given healthy choices on a lunch line at Draper Middle School in Rotterdam, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Bake sales are not the enemy. State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman recently acknowledged as much in allowing South Carolina schools to apply for waivers to strict national nutrition guidelines in order to accommodate fundraisers with foods that do not meet the requirements.

The move should help ease concerns from school and extracurricular groups who depend on a variety of fundraisers to supply much of the budget for student programs.

Chocolate bars, donuts and popcorn, among other popular snack fundraisers, generally don’t meet federal fat, salt and calorie limits for foods sold on campus during school hours. Those limits were put in place as part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and took effect at the beginning of the current school year.

Now, schools can request up to 30 three-day waivers to allow fundraisers that don’t meet health standards, an option provided for in the federal law. Doing so brings South Carolina in line with at least 20 other states that offer limited exemptions to help school groups raise money.

And Ms. Spearman is right to point out that schools are still encouraged to explore fundraising alternatives.

After all, plenty of South Carolina students could use a push in a healthier direction — though it shouldn’t require an act of Congress.

About 16 percent of adolescents in the state are medically obese, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control. Another 15 percent are overweight.

Many other factors contribute to those worrying statistics, but providing students with more vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is an important goal.

Compared to an overall improvement in nutrition standards, the occasional fundraiser cookie or candy bar shouldn’t be such a big deal.