Reading, writing and ready-to-eat Frozen food becomes a fund-raiser, as area schools join the thousands nationwide that reap the rewards of selling Market Day products.

October 08, 1997|By Maria Hiaasen | Maria Hiaasen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Is it Market Day? If students and parents are wheeling wagonloads of groceries across the school parking lot and teachers are swapping recipes for Market Day ChicNSteakes, the answer is yes.

Just five years ago, Carroll Manor Elementary School became the first school in the Baltimore area to sign on with the Chicago-based fund-raising food cooperative. Today, more than 100 area public and private schools participate, selling Krispy Krunchy Cod, Pepperoni Pizza Mates, Bacon Breakfast Burritos and more. (For information on how your school or church can enlist in the Market Day program, call the district office at 410-724-0116 or 800-554-6623.)

It's been a welcome switch from the usual school fund-raising campaign, says Teresa Barrett, last year's Market Day chairman at Carroll Manor.

"We were tired of wrapping-paper sales, and this was a whole new concept," she says. "Hey, you've got to eat anyway."

Cheryl Johnson of Yorkwood Elementary in Baltimore likes the convenience.

"The school might actually be closer than the market," Johnson says. "And by filling out order sheets ahead of time, this is probably quicker than standing in line in a crowded market."

Cindy Rueppel, a Market Day volunteer at Linthicum Elementary School, says it beats selling door-to-door.

"The forms go home with students, and if the parents want something and send it back, great. But if they don't, that's fine too."

And Patty Stenpeck, a Market Day co-chairman at Columbia's Dasher Green Elementary School, says she'd be stymied without Market Day's individually wrapped portions.

"If I want chicken and my husband wants steak, I just thaw two pieces of meat instead of a whole steak and a whole package of chicken."

Supporters at more than 5,000 schools nationwide know the Market Day drill. At the beginning of the month, an order form featuring about 150 products is sent home with students. (Shoppers who don't have kids in school can have their order sheets mailed to them.) The sheets are returned within a week, marked with desired quantities of each product. On a set date around the end of the month, school volunteers unload the Market Day order after school -- usually in a cafeteria or gym; then shoppers have about an hour to pick up their orders.

Most Market Day items are frozen, and goods are sold in bulk. Prices are competitive, and schools keep 10 percent of the profits. The company has raised more than $200 million for schools nationwide over the past five years, says a spokesman. Locally, Market Day proceeds have bought computer and playground equipment, take-home science experiment kits and classroom materials for teachers.

It was a library expansion that spawned the first Market Day school fund-raiser in Itasca, Ill., back in 1975. When her daughter asked for a contribution to her junior high school's bake sale, Market Day founder Trudi Temple balked.

"For some reason, I just didn't want to bake that cake," Temple says. "So, my husband said, 'You better bake that cake, or do something else,' and I did something else."

At the time, Temple was running a weekly food cooperative to raise money for charity. She agreed to stage a co-op for her daughter's school to benefit the library expansion, then agreed to hold a monthly sale at the school. Other area schools wanted in, so the co-op grew. Temple ran the business on her own for several years, but then in 1978 sold half the company to a local businessman, Greg Butler, who took the company national.

While Market Day regulars praise its national brands like Tyson Chicken and Quaker Oats, some working parents find it difficult to meet the weekday pickup schedule. Others shy away from the preponderance of packaged convenience foods, and still others prefer to buy meat that's fresh, not frozen.

But Market Day can benefit a school with only a loyal core of supporters, notes Mindy Halliday, a Market Day chairman at Riderwood Elementary in Towson. Riderwood takes an average of 68 orders per month, she says, and last year that was enough to raise $2,200.

At Pinewood Elementary School in Timonium, sales leveled off around $3,500 last year. But Beth Oliver, a past chairman, says the Market Day guarantee keeps customers satisfied.

"I've seen people return half-empty boxes," Oliver says. "The Market Day people didn't hassle them."

Among local schools, a Market Day favorite is ChicNSteakes -- individually wrapped, marinated, boneless chicken breasts. Here, then, are some ChicNSteake recipes:

This recipe is from Beth Oliver.

Red bottle chicken

Serves 6

1 8-ounce bottle Russian salad dressing

1 12-ounce jar peach preserves

1 1-ounce envelope dried onion soup mix

6 Market Day chicken steaks, thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in shallow baking pan. Combine first three ingredients in a bowl. Pour over chicken. Bake 30 minutes and serve with rice.

The next four recipes are from Market Day:

Chicken steaks with Italian salsa

Serves 4

1 cup each chopped green and yellow pepper

1 cup chopped, seeded tomato

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