School Stops Sugary High Revenue

Student candy business sparks concerns

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Mary Randolph, Editor-in-Chief

Hidden behind locker doors were stacks of Sour Patch Kids, Funions, and M&Ms—all inventory for an underground snack business run by Tasha Roseman ’23. This October, the school shut down the business amid concerns of health and nutrition, the legality of running a business on-campus, and financial pressure on students.

Through the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years and into the fall of 2021, Tasha and, as of fall 2021, business partner James Pernelus ’23 sold snacks for a profit to students who couldn’t get what they wanted from vending machines or school-provided food.

“We were selling things that the school didn’t offer,” Tasha said, “and the food we were offering was better than the food in the vending machines. There were also some kids that enjoyed the secrecy.”

Tasha’s business began, she said, when she bought a bag of Airhead candy in bulk, and other students wanted to pay her for individual pieces.

From there, she and James bought more candy and other snacks—at first in bulk and then from dollar stores after realizing it was more cost effective—and sold them for $1 or $2 each. The total profits of the business since its start were a little under $1000, Tasha said.

“People didn’t have a problem spending that much because we transported [the snacks] to school,” she said. “They thought it was worth the effort we put in.”

The pair put the business on hold during the pandemic due to uncertainty about students’ comfort levels of buying candy, Tasha said. Last spring, though, they began selling snacks again and “hit their stride” this fall, Tasha said.

“It took a little bit of experimenting to get it down,” she said. “This fall, we had really gotten our best sellers. One day, James bought around 30 bags of Takis, and we sold out in two days. We really got our act together and were running a smooth ship.”

Tasha and James organized profit margins, used several different lockers for different types of products, and ran a private Instagram page to collect orders for the following day. They also involved other students, Tasha said, selling across grades and employing people to sell batches of snacks.

“You could say it’s an institution,” she said. “It became a thing for incoming freshmen to get introduced to me and learn how to buy the candy. That was a nice initiation into the school, and it was building community.”

After the school prohibited the continuation of the business, Tasha started a petition to reinstate the business, which has since gathered over 200 signatures. She hopes to compromise with the school, she said, by giving the administration some of her profit.

“The school teaches capitalistic values, like through the investment and entrepreneurship clubs, to encourage us to apply the math and critical thinking skills we learn, but they’re also eliminating any kind of free market we have here,” Tasha said.

Dean of Students Rory Morton ’81, who made the decision to shut down the business, said several issues make businesses like Tasha’s discordant with the school’s values.

“We’re not in the business of allowing students, teachers, anyone to carry on a side business within the school,” he said.

The school gives a lot of thought to the frequency with which students are asked to spend money, usually in fundraising circumstances, Mr. Morton said, and the business disrupted that.

“We have to protect student rights,” Mr. Morton said. “If we just let everyone walk in here and say, ‘we’re raising money for this,’ students are kind of in a position where they have to deal with people wanting them to spend money.”

Tasha and James’ personal gain and profit from the business further went against school rules, Mr. Morton said.

“There’s a difference between this and raising money to defer the cost of prom tickets. Those need to be watched and monitored as well, but they are part of a normal tradition of what we do. The concept of profiting and using it as a business method to profit from selling candy—that’s not OK.”

Health and nutrition also factor into the school’s decision, Mr. Morton added. The administration and Dining Services must be thoughtful about what they serve in the Commons and vending machines in order to keep all community members happy and healthy, he said.

“There’s a history of the school having a sense of, ‘we have to be responsible about what we’re offering, where we’re offering it, and when we’re offering it.’”

This responsibility has in the past involved taking candy bars out of the vending machines, serving desserts at lunch infrequently, and regulating the number of bake sales.

Director of Dining Services Keith Jones works with Director of Physical Education and Health Henri Andre to evaluate what nutrition the school provides, and he said he sometimes sees administrative food choices as going “against everything we stand for” nutrition-wise, like the candy bars that were in the vending machine until recently.

“We try to find a balance,” Mr. Jones said. “No one dictates nutrition to us as an independent school; nutrition is what we want it to be. That being said, we recognize that it’s important. There’s a bit of a hypocrisy with sweets. There are many instances when candy is offered to students as a treat on a special occasion.”

As Mr. Jones, Mr. Morton, and the administration continue to keep the health and well-being of students in mind, Tasha continues to send her petition to students and faculty in hopes of reaching an agreement with the school.