Who is really paying for the bake sale?

Friday, 12 August 2016

Yesterday I got an email from the school, reminding me of the bake-sale today (please excuse the American term - it's just a shorter way of describing a cake stall that doesn't just sell cakes, but slices, cupcakes and other stuff the kids buy in individual units after school or at lunch time). 

It was good the school reminded me about it, as I was hitherto completely unaware of the event.  More notice would have been nice, but there's also another thing which doesn't feel right about this. Permit me to think aloud here..

So, each family wanting to do the right thing and contribute to the bake sale, is being asked to contribute this:
  • - time shopping
  • - money shopping
  • - time baking
  • - time cleaning up
  • - time packaging
And that's all before ANY selling or profit making has begun.  

So let's analyse this - last night I made caramel popcorn*, then cleaned up and packaged the product.   I think we probably only spent $3.50 on ingredients which is pretty good. Had we made chocolate chip cookies, the costs would have been more like $7 ingredients.  If I'd made a chocolate mud cake, we would have spent closer to $15.

Anyway - our $3.50 financial investment yielded 10 bags of popcorn.

The school will sell them for $1 each -at the most - they might even only go for a heartbreaking 50c each. But let's say they sell for $1. Therefore:
  • The school makes $10
  • The supermarket makes $3.50
  • Our household makes a loss of $3.50 plus time.  
Meh - that's not too onerous for the household I hear you say.. well let's examine the time - I think we can conservatively say the time cost is 90 minutes (including a quick trip to the supermarket to get cooking ingredients + baking + cleaning up + packaging)  Or, if the kids want to help with an ambitious plan of their own - it would be 5 hours which includes the 3 hours trying to unstick the hundreds-and-thousands from the floor - but let's go with 90 minutes for this instance:

So 90 minutes at a below minimum wage of $15 = $22.50.

Now of course, it's not like I took time out from my lucrative $15/hr after-hours-family-washing-sorting job to make these - this sort of time isn't chargeable but it is of value, and I think it's important to think about exactly whose time is it likely to be consumed in this bake-sale. Research* says that in households with children, it's 91% more likely that the shopping was done by a woman, and I recon I'd be fairly safe in saying the baking is too.    So it's probably the mother's time that is being used. The same mother who (according to research) is likely to be already doing twice as much household work and volunteering as the father, whether or not they are working. Hmm..    

What if the situation was completely different. My 90 minutes of baking made $10 for the school, so that's $7.50 per hour.  Let's consider the unlikely example that a school asked families to volunteer for say a lawn mowing service that they sold by the hour to other families.  If the school even dared (and they wouldn't), would they resell that time to customers for the equivalent of $7.50 an hour ?  No way - the time would be valued at a much higher price - after all, no-one would expect to get an hour's worth of (probably male) lawn mowing for $7.50, it would be insulting to the provider.  Is asking for an hours worth of baking that much different? It's not,  I'd argue that the only difference is that the labour is unseen, and more likely to be performed by a female - so it's easier to request it.

I don't deny that Bake Sales are effective, I'd say they make $300 in sales each time. The school has no expenses, they don't buy the products and of course they don't pay for the 45 hours work being done by parents at home (not to mention the parents who volunteer extra time to help on the stall).   I acknowledge that the school simply needs cash for books and other worthy things - they aren't evilly contriving to further exhaust already exhausted working mums (or dads) or harried single parents.  But times have changed and I think perhaps we need to think about what is being asked, and crucially, who is typically bearing the burden of these requests.  

And there are other options...I've heard that some schools have No-Bake-Sales. Kids bring a dollar or two and donate it, and people who would have otherwise felt obliged to bake, can bring the amount they would have spent on ingredients. The school makes money, no time is required, the middle man is cut out and the kids don't eat the junk food. A win-win situation.

My great idea is that there should be an optional fund-raising levy payable at the start of the year. You can pay $50 up front, and you are then left out of every request for fundraising - you don't have to buy tea-towels, sell raffle tickets, order recipe books, buy entertainment books or spend your valuable time baking.  This would be a much better option especially when you consider that the entire  $50 would go to the school, not to the tea-towel printers, or the supermarket.  And it would certainly save the (almost always female) fundraising committee a lot of work.

In the meantime, for the next bake sale, I'm just going to staple $10 to the paper plate and send Jett back to school with that.

*From http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2015/05/18/research-survey-reveals-more-australian-grocery-shopping-habits.html

Female vs. Male Grocery Buyers
The research on country vs. city shoppers  has also come out at the same time as Roy Morgan has released statistics  showing that Mums are still far more likely to do the groceries than Dads with 62 per cent of women performing the job.
If a household has even one child the gender shopping divide is even greater with 91 per cent of females in this situation hitting the shops.
It was also found that even in single father households only 85% of them are actually doing grocery shopping. The only case in which men and women are equally as likely to do the chore is when they live alone with no children. Roy Morgan still however discovered that 1 per cent of people in this scenario will not do their own groceries.

** Jon did assist with the popping, as he is the perfect husband and father. Most families don't have one of these. 
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