HEALTH & WELLNESS

Clever produce snacks can turn a school bake sale into an UnBake Sale

School bake sales got you singing the Sugar Blues? Bolthouse Farms cooks up the UnBake Sale

Many a parent has quietly — or not so quietly — bemoaned the school bake sale. There's the baking or the buying, for starters, and then the kids scarf down doughnuts or cupcakes that are not the most healthful snacks.

Now a produce company hopes to turn the school bake sale on its sugary head, replacing it with fruits and vegetables done up like Eric Carle grape-and-tomato caterpillars, strawberry aliens with berry antennae and pepper boats filled with hummus.

New federal nutrition guidelines, including calorie counts and ingredient requirements, on snacks sold at schools have prompted some parents to worry that they won't be able to make the kind of snacks that would help pay for programs that are not funded through taxes. Bolthouse Farms, based in the San Joaquin Valley, came up with the UnBake Sales program in response to those guidelines. Schools can go to TheUnBakeSale.com for recipes and suggestions about holding their own sales to raise funds.

Selling things at school, of course, is not going away.

"It's an American tradition. The fifth grade needs to go to Sacramento. This is how you raise the money," said Joyce Wong Kup, co-chair of the booster club at Marquez Elementary, a charter school in the Pacific Palisades with about 540 students.

If the reaction by Marquez students last week was any indication, an UnBake Sale can succeed. Kids streaming out of school one day last week made a beeline for a stand offering clever produce snacks — all free for the demonstration.

John Taylor, who meets his grandchildren after school, said he routinely refuses to let them patronize bake sales. But the UnBake Sale? "I would support it. I would probably pay to have it stocked. … If you eliminate anything but the healthy stuff, they will eat something."

Kup's 5-year-old daughter, Luna, chose the apple turtle, which she declared to be yummy. She also said she thinks all her friends will find the UnBake Sale offerings "cool."

"I think it's fantastic. It's really a struggle to get most kids to eat healthier food," said Rachel Burch. Her daughter, 9-year-old Elena Roby, agreed: "I think it's pretty cool because it's better for you."

Bolthouse plans to provide 100 schools around the country with starter kits, hoping to inspire other schools to follow.

Kup said she'd like to see creative fruit and vegetable snacks replace the cupcakes that regularly are brought to classes for birthdays. "How cool would that be?"

mary.macvean@latimes.com

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