Putting Education Reform To The Test

Does Box Tops for Education Promote Junk Food?

Box Tops for Education / Tunheim Partners

Last year, about 75,000 schools participated nationwide. They earned an average of about $787 per school.

Are parents buying junk food in an effort to help their kids’ schools?

Our friends at HealthyState.org are asking that question about Box Tops for Education, which donates a dime for every product lid sent in by schools.

The program started with cereal, but has now added lots of other items — even Hi-Liter markers. School officials and dietitians say it’s possible to collect box tops and still choose healthy foods.

But many of the participating products are far from a health teacher’s dream: Betty Crocker SuperMoist cake mixes, Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch, Pillsbury Big Deluxe Cookies, Spider-Man Fruit Flavored Shapes.

Still, Box Tops coupons are free money. Last year, about 75,000 schools participated in the program, earning $59 million – an average of about $787 per school. (The actual amount each school earns varies widely based on parental involvement; some raked in thousands, while others hovered in the double-digits.) Administrators spent the earnings on everything from books to art supplies to air conditioning repairs.

Hillsborough County Public Schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe says Box Tops does not encourage unhealthy purchases.

“I give our parents more credit than that for being able to make wise decisions,” Cobbe wrote in an email to HealthyState.org. “There appear to be enough reasonably healthy products and non-food products from which to choose that parents can easily help raise funds for their schools without making what some consider unhealthy choices.”

Others noted that some school fundraisers feature items that are explicitly junk food. Candy bars and cookie dough come to mind.

What do you think? How much money has your school collected from Box Tops for Education and similar programs? Do those program influence which products you purchase?


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