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Beyond bake sales
Boosting school budgets

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Giant School Bus Cookie
School Days Pencil Cookies
Apple Slice Cookies

(Family Features) - The perennial shortage of funds for school programs has always challenged the creative spirit of a community. Bake sales and booster clubs have long been a part of fund raising efforts, and community members find that working together makes the difference.

"A team effort towards fund raising nets the biggest benefits," said Lisa Kessel, who works with the Box Tops for Education program at General Mills. "Parents, concerned citizens, teachers, kids, staff, grandparents - everyone wants to support their local school. And getting everyone involved is a win-win for school programs and the community."

Working together, communities reap important benefits, not the least of which is funding school programs endangered by budget cuts.

Keys to successful fundraising programs, according to Kessel, include:

  • Ongoing programs that generate dollars throughout the year are ideal.
  • Ease of participation. Make it easy for anyone to participate almost without thinking about it.
  • Include all community members - not just parents, students and school staff. Your neighbors without school-age kids might be very interested in supporting your local school, as might grandparents.

A proven success in fundraising for school programs is General Mills' Box Tops for Education. Since its debut in 1996, the program has distributed more than $200 million to schools nationwide. That's some serious milk money. The strategy behind this successful fundraising is a practical, no-brainer approach.

"What's easier than clipping Box Top coupons from products you already use?" asked parent Cathie Baldwin, Plymouth, Minn. "It's the easiest fundraiser ever."

The popular fundraising program puts cash directly into a school's budget, to be used wherever it's needed. "I don't imagine there's a school today that doesn't feel financial pressure," says parent Eileen Montoya, Murietta, Calif. "I consider these dollars 'free money,' and I've seen what a difference this program makes at our school."

Another way for schools to earn cash is the Box Tops for Education Marketplace - an online component to the Box Tops program. This virtual one-stop shopping destination highlights more than 60 popular retailers that donate a percentage of the total purchase to the school of the shopper's choice.

Support your local school by registering at www.boxtops4education.com/progress/SchoolEarnings.aspx.. "This connects you with families and schools around the country," said Kessel, "allows you to check your school's fundraising progress, access easy family-friendly recipes, download coupons, discover fun family activities and find even more ways to earn cash back for your school."

A+ tips for fueling fundraising

Local coordinators for Box Tops for Education share their tips to help make your school fundraising successful: Put the fun in fundraising, according to parent Judy Bernstein, Phoenix, Ariz.

Put the fun in fundraising, according to parent Judy Berstein, Phoenix, Ariz. "Have the kids make posters  to support your program, and make an art project out of designing ‘drop boxes’ for collecting."

Find fun incentives for staff and students, advised parent Elizabeth Froman, Greenville, Mo. "Celebrate  your successes with fun and low-cost events like movie nights, picnic potlucks or a day-at-the-ballpark."

Keep the steam in your team, suggested parent Cindy Mussleman, Lehigh, Pa. "Set mid-term or seasonal  goals and spread the word when you’ve reached a measurable goal. Make it ‘real’ by reporting about the  new uniforms, sports equipment or musical instruments to be purchased. Trade creative ideas with other communities through the Box Tops website."

Giant School Bus Cookie

  • 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury Create 'n Bake refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 1 container (1 lb) vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow food color
  • 3 drops red food color
  • 2 chocolate-dipped marshmallow creme-filled sandwich cookies
  • 2 gummy fruit rings
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups chewy fruit snack rolls (blue and red varieties)
  • Wafer cookies
  • Black decorating gel
  • 2 licorice twists
  • Assorted candies (mini fruit-shaped candies and gumdrops)
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    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil. Cut cookie dough in half crosswise. Cut each section in half lengthwise. With floured fingers, press in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely in pan, about 15 minutes.
    2. Remove cookie from pan by lifting foil; remove foil. Place cookie on large serving tray or foil-covered 14x10-inch sheet of cardboard. With long side facing you, cut 3 1/2x3-inch rectangle from upper right corner of cookie. (See photo.) Cut rectangle in half lengthwise; reserve for bus door.
    3. Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting. In small bowl, mix remaining frosting and food colors until well blended; spread frosting over cookie.
    4. Place sandwich cookies on bottom for wheels; use some of reserved frosting to attach gummy rings for hub caps. Cut blue chewy fruit snack rings for and place on cookie for passenger window, hub and place on cookie for passenger window, hub caps. Cut blue chewy fruit snack roll to fit, windows on door, and driver's window; cut red and place for stop sign. Attach wafer cookies for driver and students' faces. Use remaining ingredients to decorate as shown in photo. Color very small amounts of reserved frosting for smiles, eyes and hair as desired.

Preparation Time
40 minutes

Start to Finish Time
1 hour 15 minutes

16 servings

School Days Pencil Cookies

  • 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury Create 'n Bake refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup vanilla creamy ready-to-spread frosting (from 1-lb container)
  • 10 drops yellow food color
  • 2 rolls strawberry chewy fruit snack (from 5-oz box)
  • Edible glitter, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon vegetable oil

    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil. In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended. Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.
    2. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove cookie from pan by lifting foil; remove foil.
    3. Trim 1/2 inch from each short side of cookie. Cut cookie in half lengthwise. Cut each long strip into 3/4-inch-wide strips. From one end of each strip, cut off corners to form "pencil point." Discard corner pieces. Place "pencils," bottom side up, 1/2 inch apart on cooling rack over sheet of waxed paper.
    4. In small microwavable bowl, mix frosting and food color until well blended. Microwave on High 30 to 40 seconds or until frosting is melted and can be stirred smooth. Spoon frosting over "pencils," leaving "points" unfrosted and allowing frosting to drip down sides. If desired, smooth sides with knife.
    5. Cut fruit snack rolls into 26 (1 1/2-inch) strips. Save any remaining fruit snack for later use. At end of each "pencil," place 1 strip on top and down sides of "pencil" to form "eraser." Sprinkle glitter below "eraser" to resemble "metal band." Cool until frosting is set, at least 30 minutes.
    6. In another small microwavable bowl, place chocolate chips and oil. Microwave on High 45 to 60 seconds or until chocolate can be stirred smooth. Dip "pencil points" in melted chocolate to resemble "lead." Cool until chocolate is set, about 15 minutes.

Preparation Time
1 hour 5 minutes

Start to Finish Time
1 hour 35 minutes

Makes 26 cookies
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Apple Slice Cookies

  • 2 tablespoons red decorator sugar
  • 1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury Create 'n Bake refrigerated sugar cookies
  • 2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • Black string licorice, cut into 1-inch pieces

    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Cut 17x12-inch piece of plastic wrap; place on work surface. Sprinkle red sugar evenly over plastic wrap. Roll cookie dough in sugar to coat. Wrap in plastic wrap; freeze 30 minutes.
    2. Remove half of dough from wrapper; freeze remaining dough until needed. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices. On ungreased cookie sheets, place slices 2 inches apart. Place 3 chocolate chips in center of each slice to resemble seeds. To form slice shape, make 2 indentations on 2 opposite sides with fingers. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
    3. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until unsugared edges are light golden brown. Insert 1 licorice piece on top of each cookie to resemble stem. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Preparation Time
35 minutes

Start to Finish Time
1 hour 5 minutes

Makes 32 cookies
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SOURCE: General Mills - Box Tops 4 Education

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