If you’ve ever felt slightly conflicted when a child or parent asks you to donate to a worthy school fundraising cause in exchange for a sugary treat, fear not.
As of today, there’s another alternative to fundraising through chocolate sales that’s not going to add centimetres to your waistline or cause a moral stir.
Garden business Yates has launched a new national program that enables children to sell raise money by selling flower and vegetable seeds to willing buyers. The new Raise A Patch scheme, launched today in Sydney, aims to deter children away from sweet treats, foster healthy eating choices and get more kids into the garden.
“It’s important that we encourage kids to know where their food comes from and grow their own food,” says horticulturalist at Yates, Angie Thomas.
“That’s why we wanted to make seeds available and help them to fundraise at the same time.
“The program will get children outside, encourage them to learn about gardening and get their hands dirty. It gives them a connection between their food and the earth.”
According to the 2013 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one-in-four children aged two-to-17 years old were overweight or obese.
“We are giving kids a mixed message about food and health,” says Thomas. “On one hand we ask kids to eat healthy food and on the other hand we ask them to sell sugary chocolates.
“But now we now have boxes of different seed varieties that schools and parents can buy, in a similar way to how they buy boxes of chocolates and sweets to fundraise, so instead of selling unhealthy chocolates they can sell seeds.
“Growing your own food and plants is addictive, healthy and wonderful for the planet.”
Thomas says there’s also a pretty profit to be made from selling seeds: an intentional outcome of the project.
“If [children] purchase a box of 25 seeds for $40, they can sell it at $100. If they buy a 50-pack box at $75, they can sell it for $200.
“That’s a healthy profit margin. And I don’t use the word healthy lightly. It’s a healthy profit and selling seeds is healthy for kids as well.”
The philosophy behind Yates’ initiative is not totally new. There are other non-chocolate programs selling personalised mugs, cookbooks and re-usable lunch bags available online, which have also been designed to help schools and sporting clubs raise much needed funds.
However, selling seeds is a more rare method of fundraising, as selling sweets is still the norm to raise money at some schools and many sporting or dance clubs.
President of the Parents and Citizens Federation (P&C Federation), Susie Boyd, praises the program and encourages parents to access alternative fundraising schemes that don’t involve selling sugary treats.
“We think it’s fantastic,” says Boyd. “These days, children know how to Pokemon. They know how to Google but many don’t know how to grow their own food or garden. It’s a skill they will need to learn for when they get older.
“Children also need to know where their food comes from. It’s not just McDonalds or the supermarket: it comes from the ground.”
Given how new the scheme is, it's hard to know whether consumers will prefer to buy seeds over chocolate, and actually sew them in the ground. But Boyd says given the health concerns surrounding chocolate sales, it’s worth a try.
“Unfortunately, chocolate is a good seller [for fundraising activities] as blocks are sold for $2 and that’s cheap,” says Boyd.
“But seeds are healthy….Any skill that kids can learn that encourages them to be healthier and self-sustaining is a good thing.”
For more information on the Yates Raise A Patch program, visit its fundraising site. For other healthy ideas to raise money for your school or sporting club, visit Nutrition Australia or Health Kids Association.