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Carb-Loaded Concessions Fueling Football Fundraising: What Can We Do About It?

If it’s Fall in America, then it’s football season. From the kindergardener’s just learning how to play all the way to the professionals in the National Football League, everyone seems to get excited about this time of the year as the temperatures begin to drop and we root for our favorite team. Where I live in South Carolina, football is almost like a religion the way people so closely monitor their local high school or college team and I enjoy watching grown adults get all upset or excited when their team wins and loses. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of the sport, but I don’t get all obsessive about it like some people do.

In high school football stadiums all across the country, there are three things you will consistently see: football players, fans, and food! It’s that latter one where many of the fundraising efforts are focused on by selling overpriced concessions as a means for raising money for the football team, band, and/or the school itself. If you’ve ever been to one of these games and stood in line for 30-45 minutes to get something to eat, then you know the selection is quite limited to mostly carbs, carbs, and more carbs. From nachos to French fries, sugary sodas and corn dogs, it’s almost impossible to escape the overabundance of carbohydrates that fill the air during football games.

The sad reality of this in light of the health and weight problems we face as a nation wasn’t lost on one of my readers who is a parent of a daughter in the high school band. She was recently one of the volunteers working the concession stand at the school and wanted to share her thoughts about this deep-ingrained part of American culture:

So my daughter started high school two weeks ago and she is in the marching band. Right off the bat we have fundraisers to do and you can probably guess what we have to sell. Sugar, sugar and more sugar. No biggie it’s just a few bars and treats. The band gets to run the concession stand at the football game. I volunteer to help.

It’s a typical setup. The men are outside on the grills and the women are in the concession shack selling and preparing. This was a pre-season game and we went through about 40 bags of the big industrial size fries, 20 or so of fried cheese sticks and breaded chicken fingers. The guys that have been there the past years told me this was a light day because it was pre-season. I can’t imagine how much of that junk we will go through during a regular season game. What could be more American than high school football?

And yet that’s the problem. It’s accepted, even encouraged to spend as much money as you can on the concessions to support the band. We need the money since the school only gives a tiny sum to the band. I was able to hold out and not eat any of the free food we get for volunteering, but I can see my resolve weakening over the course of the season.

Maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but when I think about all the high schools across the country that do the same thing for all the major sports it probably is a big deal. I don’t have an answer for it. I was thinking about it and was hoping maybe one your crew had a suggestion.

It IS a big deal and something that certainly needs to be addressed. I can remember being in the band and participating in fundraisers selling the “World’s Finest Chocolate” bars for a couple of bucks each. Of course, back then I didn’t care a bit about my health or weight and didn’t make the connection between sugar and my condition. And I would venture to say that most people nowadays probably have that same attitude when it comes to purchasing candy bars or concessions at football games because “it’s for a good cause.” That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s got to be a better way, right? Surely we can raise money where it is needed without exacerbating the obesity epidemic and teaching the next generation that it’s okay to eat carbage as long as it’s for a meaningful endeavor?

We just went through the Halloween season where literally tens of millions of children walk around their neighborhood and churches filling up big bags full of sugar, sugar and more sugar! It’s pretty disgusting when you stop and think about it. Culturally, I don’t see how you break these deeply-embedded parts of Americana. But it’s holidays like Halloween that makes the obesity problem worse and we need to cast a low-carb spell on Halloween to make any meaningful changes come about.

High school football will never stop serving this high-carb stuff at concession stands until people realize it’s unhealthy for them. That’s an education that will take decades, maybe even much longer (if ever!) to beat. In the end, it is the individual who chooses to purchase or not purchase one of those concessions. I can understand wanting to support the school and the activities in it, but is there NOTHING else they can sell besides sugar-filled candy bars?! How about candles, gift certificates, coupon books, or even low-carb, sugar-free ChocoPerfection bars and other such fundraising efforts? And in the concession stands, why not offer beef shish kabobs, grilled veggies, and other healthier options instead? The answer to this problem isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. I’d love to see a school just try this one season to see what would happen.

As for my reader who worked the concession stand at her daughter’s school, good for you to care enough about it to want to take a stand. Stay strong knowing you have the truth on your side. And whatever you do, NEVER stop livin’ la vida low-carb! Do you have any suggestions for how we can break this cycle of high-carb madness that swings around every year about this time? Can we really do ANYTHING about it or has Pandora’s box been open for far too long to turn the tide around now? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Burton Brown

    A change in concessions is unlikely. You could simply eat the burger sans bun or some other non-breaded meat that is offered.
    One dollar ($1)seems to be the magic number when selling candy bars….so Choco-Perfections are out unless the company has a charity section that schools can order from.
    The problem is that carb-laden foods foods are cheap. (in more ways than just price)
    I don’t see the Low-Carb concession stand making much money…unfortunately.
    As a parent to school-age children, I cringe each year at the fund raisers….no one needs the candy, and no one needs another candle….I sold LOTS of those when I was in school..and they were so lame…but they bought to support the school.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      So, what is something people want and need that could be a good affordable fundraising tool? Thoughts?

  • Burton Brown

    I like the idea of gift cards….but it should be to local grocery stores or local restaurants that are willing to sell the school the GCs at a decent discount to the school…then have the school sell them at full face value.
    It should be something that people use/buy all the time…and would buy it somewhere else if not from the fund raiser effort.
    The schools I am familiar with have “Book Fairs”…but the books are so expensive….you could easily get the same book at a much lower price from the internet….the same applies to most candy fund raisers…its SO MUCH cheaper somewhere else.
    Car Wash fund raisers are good because they are cheap to host….and usually fun for the students….weather limits this one, but its a good one.
    Schools need to really think about what works and keep it simple…and use those options.

  • Stu

    How about beef jerky or nuts? Pickled eggs and pepperoni work too.

  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    It’s a supply & demand thing. As long as people buy carbage, it will continue to be sold. At least our school’s concession stand had chili cheese dogs and they will give me one without the bun – my way of countering chili cheese fries. :)

    When my kids came home with cookie dough sales for a fundraiser, my wife arranged to just donate $100 rather than sell cookie dough. Offering a donation without buying anything is an option to avoid accumulating carbage.

    Our private Christian school also uses the gift card fundraiser. I can get cards for the grocery store and use them for groceries. They also have several other gift cards available that make good gifts.

  • Rusa

    Turkey legs!

  • mrgjr

    Turkey Legs is a very good idea. I’m going to suggest that. Baked chicken would also probably work.

  • Hilary Kyro

    Let the students work legitimately. Let them babysit, entertain, shovel doggy doo, and clean house for real $$$. The economically empowered workers will have the freedom to buy their own trumpets and ticket to ride.
    Pushing Krispy Kreme donuts on your relatives to finance mortifying marching band hats? What are we fund-raising for? To turn young brains into chip dip. It’s immoral. It’s sick.
    I would be ashamed to volunteer to work in a filthy fast food joint that rips off my neighbors selling food that kills the body and spirit. 40 lashes with a wet noodle to a Livin’ la vida low-carber who knows better.
    Stop buying lies. Stop selling false virtue. Stop spending money you ain’t got on hotels and furry purple hats.

    • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

      I love it! Fire ‘em up!

  • Heather

    Bake sales and nachos at the big game aren’t the problem, it’s the everyday diet that has changed. Forget about the candy kids eat at Halloween, just look at what they’re fed everyday in the cafeteria. That being said, I vote for turkey legs!

  • Clay Boggess

    As long as people remain undisciplined about what they choose to consume there will continue to be a high demand for these types of products and everyone knows that product demand means money in people’s pockets. We all use the excuse that ‘at some point I will turn over a new leave’. The problem for some is that this day usually never happens until it’s too late and they are either forced to make a life-style change, or worse. Eventually we all have to make a decision.