Law takes a bite out of school fundraisers

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Local restaurants may feel the pinch too as schools meet terms of health law

By Jennifer Garcia

Frito pie fanatics attending sports events will have to get their fix somewhere else this school year.

The staple of high school football and basketball concession stands will no longer be available, thanks to a law that prohibits the sale of hot food, unless sold by a licensed caterer.

Los Alamos High School athletic teams and other groups that rely on selling food to raise funds will also have to find another way to generate money.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting at Mountain Elementary School, Athletic Director Vicki Nelms and Business Manager John Wolfe talked about a conversation they had with a state health inspector earlier this year.

The trouble for LAPS began in the spring, when a health inspector saw a banner advertising a Los Alamos High school baseball pasta night fundraiser.

The health inspector contacted Nelms and questioned the process by which the food for the event was being prepared. When he found out that it was being prepared by parents and taken to the school, the event was stopped.

“It was about a day or two before pasta night,” Nelms said.  

Nelms said that under state law, food cannot be cooked at one location and taken to another to be sold. The food must be prepared and served by individuals with a caterer’s license.

“Unless it’s a catered event, we can’t go to a restaurant, get food and resell it,” Wolfe said. “Some of the things we’ve done in the past, we can’t do now.”

Nelms said that the rules apply not only to concession stands at sports events, but to school groups that sell food during the lunch hour on school grounds.

“You can’t do Frito pie and pasta dinner fundraisers, but there are some things we can sell that are still legal,” she said, mentioning pre-packaged foods like Rice Krispie treats, among others.

Those who run sports concession stands aren’t the only ones affected by the law.

Los Alamos Public Schools will have to reevaluate how some schools feed their students.

Schools in White Rock contract with restaurants like Bandelier Grill and Time Out Pizza to bring food to students, but based on the state’s rules, this can no longer be done.

“This is a tremendous hit for restaurants in White Rock who supplement their income with the schools,” Board President Melanie McKinley said.

This change in procedure does not mean that all fundraisers will stop.

Events like the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps rib and brisket night can still be held because the food is cooked and served at the Posse Shack, which has a caterer’s license.

Nelms said that as long as the food is not cooked elsewhere and then taken to the school and sold, groups can still have food fundraisers.