If you spend more than a token amount of time either grocery shopping or cooking, you have probably noticed the Box Tops for Education and Campbell’s Labels for Education labels on certain grocery products. Box Tops for Education is a program sponsored by General Mills and it has returned over $300 million dollars to schools throughout America since its inception in 1996. The Labels for Education program is a similar program launched thirty-seven years ago by the Campbell’s Soup Company.
If you have children, or have had children in the past decade especially, your school has probably asked you to participate in one or both of these programs. The concept is simple. The food company that sponsors the program includes special labels on its products. Consumers clip the labels, send them into school with their kids, and the school sends the labels back to the sponsor. In turn, the sponsor sends money back to the school for each label received. It requires almost no effort on the part of the consumer and the schools enjoy an easy way to raise funds.
But what if you do not have any children or your children have grown? Your channel to your local school is not as convenient as the backpack express. Do you then throw away all of the labels? Many schools try to make it easy for consumers by positioning donation boxes in local grocery stores, but that still requires a consumer to remember to bring the labels to the grocery store. Without kids at home, taking advantage of the General Mills program or the Campbell’s program requires effort.
That effort, however, is minimal and the rewards of participation are great. There really is no good reason for anyone to ever throw away a label that could be turned into cash for a local school, whether or not the donor will ever have a child at the school.
We all benefit from having good schools in our communities and good schools require funding. That funding usually comes from our tax dollars. In theory, if every consumer donated $20 worth of labels to their local school, it should reduce our local tax burdens by an equal amount. At the very least, it should result in a better education for local children who will then go on to better jobs and greater contributions to our communities. With stronger schools, our property values will improve. With greater donations, teachers who already have to dig into their own pockets for school supplies will be able to save more of their woefully inadequate earnings.
There simply is no reason for any of us to throw those labels into the garbage with our empty boxes of cereal and soup and so many other consumer products. Yet that is what happens all too often. There are about 300 million Americans. If each of us were responsible for $5 in donations from labels each year, our donations would amount to $1.5 billion in annual donations to schools, or about five times the total donated by Box Tops for Education in the past 14 years. Sadly, that is not happening.
I think we can do better.
Do you participate in programs that send money to your local schools? Do you have children in those schools? Do you continue to participate even when your children are out of the house? If you do not participate, why not?