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STUTTGART, Germany — Nearly a month after being ordered to halt food fundraising activities, the wheels are in motion to get DODDS-Europe students and volunteers back in the lunch business as they work to raise money for everything from senior proms to Junior ROTC programs.

In January, numerous food-themed fundraisers came to a sudden halt following a Department of Defense Education Activity memorandum that stated "no foods shall be sold in competition with the Student Meal Program during meal periods."

But now there appears to be some bureaucratic wiggle room for school clubs that still hope hawk food inside busy cafeterias, where crowds of hungry students have for years helped subsidize programs that fall outside of the school budget.

"At each district, they are looking at their wellness policies and they are adding statements that if the food meets the dietary guidelines, and if they’re in a situation like an overcrowded cafeteria, or if it offers relief to the food line, then they (fundraising groups) will be approved," said Margret Menzies, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe spokeswoman. "But only if the food meets the dietary guidelines."

In essence, schools will no longer be required to receive a special waiver from DODEA to sell food during lunch. Instead, local school districts will be empowered to make their own decisions about whether such fundraising programs are needed, Menzies said. While the DODEA policy hasn’t been removed from the books, local school districts can establish wellness policies that override the no-sale rule.

The rule, which had not been enforced for years, was aimed at ensuring students get meals that meet nutritional standards, according to DODDS-Europe officials.

But the abrupt order to stop sales upset many students, parents and teachers across Europe, who expressed concern about how they would fill the funding void for their various extracurricular activities.

At Heidelberg High School, students launched a letter-writing campaign in hopes of getting DODEA to rethink its decision.

Terry Beerman, a parent at Heidelberg High who works with a group of volunteers to raise money for school programs through food sales, said the group is eager to get back to work after having their program terminated several weeks ago.

"It’s excellent news for us. We’re scheduled to do a fundraiser at the end of the month," she said.

The Heidelberg volunteers will be meeting with the school principal in the next couple weeks to learn about the new policy and how to comply with it.

At Patch High School, a student grill that for 27 years has been raising funds for its Junior ROTC program also should be up and running again soon, according school officials.

"We’re going to make sure that it’s in compliance (with nutritional standards), and I’m hoping to get it started next week," said Patch Principal Susan Page.

Since 2007, DODDS-Europe districts participating in the National School Lunch Program have been required to create a local wellness policy that promotes student health.

Ultimately, districts are in the best position to determine whether fundraising food fits in with their wellness mission, Menzies said. "The school district superintendent office is in the position to know," she said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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