It is hard to turn a corner in the UK these days without tripping over a cake sale, and hospitals are no exception. I have seen cake sales in aid of special care baby units, childhood cancers and heart disease. I have read about cake sales for diabetes where the bakers were clever enough to replace the sugar with a diabetic friendly substitute. I have heard of a cake sale outside a childhood obesity clinic.
The cake sales are often in prominent locations, in the foyer or in the hospital canteen in order to sell to both visitors and staff. Sending the message loud and clear that we in the National Health Service support our charities, need to raise money for our hospitals and like the rest of the nation believe eating cake is a good idea.
Over a decade ago having a fast food outlet in the hospital foyer was perhaps seen as de rigueur. Now some trusts are, at some expense, buying out the fast food chains situated on their premises as there is a clear contradiction between the presence of these corporations and our healthy eating messages. So where do cake sales fit into this context? The cake sale is more complex than would befit the headline ‘hospitals pushing sugar’.
Baking has become deeply ingrained in our psyche over the past 15 years, championed by a series of much anticipated and loved television programs. Baking to raise money for charity is much more than the sum of the sugar, eggs, butter and flour. The charity cake sale is the coming together of a community for a good cause. At a time when politicians do not seem to be listening, when the funding for the National Health Service is being systematically and purposely cut, at a time when we are feeling helpless baking cakes represents the need for people to want to do something.
In an economic sense the cake sale makes no sense. By the time we have purchased the necessary ingredients, spent some time making the cakes, invested our time selling the cakes and then spent money buying the cakes, how much have we had to spend in order to raise those vital funds? It seems to me the only ones who really make a profit are the supermarkets.
When I share my thoughts with those selling the cakes I mainly get sympathetic views but between us an uncertainty of how to do it differently… Perhaps we could think of a healthy alternative, one that is positively healthy, not just less bad. Perhaps we could acknowledge and discuss why we are making the cakes in the first place.