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posted: 8/2/2012 11:18 AM

Grayslake charter school might shun soup label fundraisers

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  • Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake is considering dropping fundraising programs where labels or box tops are collected and brought in for school supplies.

    Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake is considering dropping fundraising programs where labels or box tops are collected and brought in for school supplies.

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Taking a cue from the controversial Center for Science in the Public Interest, Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake is considering a policy that could eliminate label redemption fundraisers with Campbell Soup Co. and other businesses.

Campbell's Labels for Education and General Mills Inc.'s Box Tops for Education are fundraisers used by schools across the country. Bar codes clipped on behalf of a school from eligible Campbell's products, for example, can add up to classroom accessories, library materials or electronics.

But the proposed Prairie Crossing board policy, which cites a CSPI recommendation, says the choice school would no longer participate in label redemption programs, or other marketing opportunities with businesses such as fundraisers at restaurants, "unless there is a clear and compelling fit with our mission and values."

Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group known for questioning the high calorie content in fast food, threatened to sue McDonald's Corp. in June over the way it markets Happy Meals to children. Critics have dubbed CSPI as the "food police."

Prairie Crossing's proposal says the school should not use fundraisers as promotion of products of poor nutritional quality. Prairie Crossing board President Steve Achtemeier and Executive Director Nigel Whittington couldn't be reached for comment.

"Although they appear to be attractive fundraisers, they are not effective fundraisers," the Prairie Crossing document says of General Mills' Box Tops for Education and Campbell's Labels for Education.

"For example, to earn a $300 digital camcorder, a school would have to collect 27,850 Campbell's product labels. At $1.20 per can of soup, students' families would have to spend $33,420 on Campbell's products."

In a statement Tuesday, General Mills spokeswoman Kris Patton said nearly 100,000 schools received $74 million during the 2011-2012 academic year by participating in the Box Tops for Education program. She said the company is unaware of other schools considering a label redemption position similar to Prairie Crossing.

Campbell's spokeswoman Liesel Henderson didn't respond to a message seeking comment.

Under the proposed board policy for development and community relations, food and beverages with minimal or no trans fat per serving would be required at Prairie Crossing events. Promoting personal responsibility and being health-conscious should be among the school's values, the document says.

Prairie Crossing is an environmentally focused school with a 392-student capacity. Open since 1999, Prairie Crossing is one of two state-created charter schools.

Students from within the boundaries of Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 near Mundelein may attend the charter school at no extra cost, although enrollment is determined by lottery. Most of Prairie Crossing's pupils come from District 50.

Label redemption programs are not a problem for District 50, spokeswoman Jennifer Tempest Bova said. She said the Campbell's labels have brought money to District 50's music department.

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