The Birthday Cupcake Debate Heats Up

by Bettina Elias Siegel on May 28, 2010

I intended to post on an entirely different topic today, but then I received this robust and thought-provoking response in favor of the right to bring cupcakes (or other treats) to school on your child’s birthday:

As a mother, an attorney, and a libertarian, I can tell you the last thing I want is one more stinking law on the books regulating how I ought to raise my kids.

Personally, I aim to be the kind of mother who speaks with authority and raises children who listen. Asking my legislators to assist me, because I don’t want to be the “mean” parent, seems terribly weak.

Pro-freedom = Pro-cupcake.

P.S. Not that it matters (I’m pro-cupcake either way), but 1/7th is an overstatement. 25% of all birthdays occur over the summer, not to mention weekends.

Usually if I reply to a reader, I do it in the comments section but this seemed like a conversation worth having up front.  So, here’s my response:

First, thank you for taking me on on this issue.  I want this forum to be a place for debate rather than an echo chamber full of people who share my views.  And reading your response today forced me to sharpen my own thinking, which is always a good thing.

While you might get a different impression from my recent lily-livered cave-in on the birthday donuts, you and I sound fairly similar in our parenting approach.  My two children will sadly attest to the fact that I’m pretty firm about setting limits, on everything from screen time to junk food.   And, like you, I don’t want to live in a nanny state.   That said, I do take issue with the idea that “pro-freedom = pro-cupcake” because in this case, your freedom is directly encroaching on my own.

To me, cupcakes in school are a lot like second-hand smoke.  Sure, you have the right to light up a cigarette at will, but you don’t have the right to do it in an elevator where I have no means of escape.   Similarly, when my kid is sitting in school he’s entirely captive to what goes on there.  And when you bring your two dozen cupcakes to class, you might be inadvertently violating all sorts of things I care about with respect to my child and how I choose to raise him.

Maybe, like a parent who posted here earlier, I have a policy against feeding my child certain additives like the high fructose corn syrup, trans fat or artificial colorings found in many supermarket cupcakes. Maybe, like another parent who posted here, there’s only so much sugar I want my kid to have in a day, and now that he’s eaten your cupcake the quota’s filled, leaving me in the unenviable position of having to deny treats that I might otherwise have been inclined to allow.   Whatever the issue, it seems to me that the feeding of a child should be within the sole purview of the child’s parent, not other parents and not the school (unless of course, I’m permitting my child to receive lunch or breakfast there.)

Now, I can already hear you saying two things.  One, a cupcake isn’t a deadly agent like cigarette smoke.   That’s certainly true and I like a good cupcake as much as anybody – maybe more.  But lately  — and this is going to be the subject of a whole other post (or series of posts) —  I feel like I just don’t have the luxury of viewing any  individual treat in a vacuum anymore.    We now live in a society about which Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said: “. . . if you go with the flow in America today, you will end up overweight or obese.”   That is, he believes obesity (and its associated diseases) are almost an inevitable consequence of the way we live now.

So in today’s world, is a cupcake just a cupcake?  Or do we have to view it in the context of an American child’s entire lifestyle, which is likely to be relatively sedentary, rich in highly processed, sugary, salty and fatty foods, with frequent, unnecessary snacking and all the rest?  This is a big question, and something I want to examine in more detail in the coming days.

The second thing I’m guessing you’ll say is, if I claim to have such backbone as a parent, why not tell my kid firmly, “Sorry, buddy, no classroom cupcakes for you.”    Yes, I certainly could do that.  But why should I be put in the position of asking that of a seven year old, glassy-eyed with envy as 24 of his peers sit around him, licking cupcake frosting off their fingers?  Just to accommodate your inalienable right to celebrate a birthday with sweets on a school campus — sweets which could be enjoyed at your off-site party instead, or a birthday which could be celebrated in the classroom with dollar store toys, healthy food or the other items suggested by readers here?  I guess I’m not sure why your rights necessarily trump mine in this case.

One last thing:  whether you regard it as an outrage or a big yawn, I stand firmly by my calculation that 1/7th of the school year = cupcake day.  I don’t know what’s going on in your school, but in ours, kids whose birthdays fall on the weekend celebrate on Monday or Friday, and kids with summer birthdays (like my son) are allowed to celebrate it with treats on another day, usually in May.

It really is, as one blogger put it, “No Cupcake Left Behind.”

If you’d like to reply, I’ll certainly post your response.  And thank you again for reading and sharing your thoughts.

As for the rest of you, I promise that this blog isn’t going to devolve into an ongoing debate about cupcakes in the classroom, but I do think this is an issue worth examining in that it relates to many of the larger themes I hope to address on this blog.   Share your thoughts as well.

I’ll sign back on after the holiday weekend.   Enjoy, everyone!

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Ftodes May 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

Well said Bettina!

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anthony ranieri May 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm

i’m reluctant to enter the fray, being childless and having no direct interest in the issue, but…. a kid going to school and getting handed a cupcake against his/her parents’ wishes isn’t that different from an unsuspecting customer walking into bloomingdales and getting sprayed with perfume (remember those days?). there is a reason bloomies staff have to ask now if you would like to get spritzed. if i send a kid to school with cupcakes for the class (my volitional act) where my obvious purpose is for the kids to eat them (intent) and they do (my intentional act results in a contact), when it is common knowledge that processed wheat, white sugar, and various other ingredients are known to contribute to poorer health (i.e. the contact is injurious), and/or i am aware that the parents object to their kids’ consumption of these things (i.e. the contact is offensive), i think i’ve committed a textbook civil battery. the fact that the kids eat them voluntarily hardly makes the contact consensual–kids have no idea what they are consenting to when they take a cupcake. i’m not saying to litigate the issue necessarily. but i do want to make the point that if we look at the issue closely, we can see, even though it isn’t obvious at first, that sending a kid to school with cupcakes does violate the sensibilities of our culture.

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Lisa Glatstein May 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Hi Bettina, Can’t believe I’m commenting on this AGAIN! I guess I’m becoming consumed (no pun intended) with this topic. I never send treats to school for my child’s birthday. I have one spring and one born in summer. (Actually this year I just let my spring child leave early so she could celebrate with relatives who were in town.) Its not that I mind MY child having an occasional cupcake – I don’t for several reasons. 1. My child exercises 4 hours / 6 days per week all year long. She’s a calorie burning machine with 6 pack abs. 2. Both my children will often turn down a cupcake or eat 2 bites and toss it. I love this quality – which I don’t possess – of eating what you want and walking away when you aren’t hungry!

I really feel the other issue is that birthdays in general are out of control. I have never believed in huge expensive parties with tons of gifts. I personally like to offer my kids one nice gift or activity they REALLY want and allow them to have 1 or 2 friends they REALLY like over to spend the night or play. The excessive gifts are just as disturbing to me as the excessive sugar of the cupcakes. Its all the excess that I find so bothersome. The cupcakes are huge – if they were regular size it wouldn’t be so obtrusive.

I will admit I usually send cookies to gym with my daughter for her birthday but again I know each of these girls has the same physique and workout schedule as my daughter and I personally know the feelings of each mother on this subject.

Back to the comment about excess – the other reason I don’t send food to school is that I see lots of kids in the class with weight problems. I also see the trend towards overeating. I’m a classic overeater from way back. I can put away a lot of food. I notice it at the office. Frequently we have potluck lunches with way too much food and we all over eat. A co-worker and I used to team up and bring one dish between the 2 of us because the amount of food was sickening. We have to teach our kids not to overeat so they won’t have this problem when they grow up. Portion control needs to be put back into our vernacular. I’m really working on that at our house.

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ageorgsson May 28, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I have always sent tiny-sized cupcakes for my sons’ birthdays (and I’m the mom who brings fruit for the class parties — which, have you noticed, is way more expensive than junk food). But reading these posts has made me inclined to find an alternative to birthday sweets. It’s gotten outta hand, and I’m taking a stand!

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Stacey September 19, 2010 at 2:08 am

…no, I am the mom that sends the tiny-sized cupcakes for birthdays (along with a bag of carrots) and brings fruit for class parties. Well, I guess there are at least two of us. :-)

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Kristin June 2, 2010 at 7:42 am

Just wanted to mention that when my child entered into the daycare world at 14 months he rarely ever got sugar. It was the school that made him into a sugar fiend (through their lenient policies) and from then on it was a fight every time a treat was around. I was disappointed that, due to the birthday rituals, someone else decided when to introduce sugar and preservatives into his life. Yes, most often these cupcakes/cookies were store-bought. I personally never buy treats that contain preservatives and trans-fat and cringe when they are brought to school. It is also nice to consider those children who are glucose intolerant (I know two off the top of my head). It is not fun for them to have to opt-out so often throughout the school year, I am sure.

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skreader June 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I think it’s not a big deal. Everything in moderation.

We rarely have dessert in our home . The kids bring a packed lunch and no sweets in those. The first time my kids ever tasted a honey-dip Dunkin’ Donut they said “Ick, too sweet”.

That said, if kids bring in sweets on birthdays at school, it’s fine.

By the time the kids are 10 or 11 it mostly stops (seen as “baby-ish”).

That said, I don’t live in the USA. so maybe I don’t understand how it’s a problem.

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bettina elias siegel June 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm

skreader:

I’m curious to know where you are (if you’re willing to share) – it may well be that what feels like a nonstop onslaught of treats and snacks throughout a child’s day is a uniquely American phenomenon, although we seem to be very effective at spreading our poor eating habits throughout the world.

– Bettina

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skreader June 7, 2010 at 2:43 am

Hi Bettina,

I’m from the USA & have lived in Hong Kong for the past 17+ years.

There’s a lot more junk-food and sugary breakfast cereals available in the stores than when I first arrived here in the early 90s. The snack-culture of the USA is spreading, but I guess it’s not quite as bad here.

There *is* a growing problem of overweight kids and adults in HK, but I think it tends to be on the salty-fatty spectrum of foods & portion control, rather than kids bringing in cup-cakes to school (which is not a tradition here).

More important would be to get parents and kids not to eat really fatty breakfasts, lunches, & dinners. Sometimes the newspapers also write up about the terrible amounts of fats in some popular dim-sums. Since there’s been a huge change in the last 40 years in the availability of food and far less physical labor, stuff that was once a special treat now becomes more regular food.

There’s definitely poor eating habits here and some movements in Hong Kong to improve kids eating habits along the lines of what has been seen in the UK and USA.

Here’s the Govt. website that is working to promote healthy eating in the schools.
http://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/eng/template/home.asp?pid=0&id=1

Here’s a report on a “baseline assessment” conducted in 2006
http://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/files/pdf/supplementary_report_on_school_lunch_2006_11_21_en.pdf

About 2 years ago, my kids’ secondary school created a “healthy eating” council and the PTSA no longer sells candy and chips and so-forth at the school’s “tuck shop”.

So, instead, a lot of kids (including my own) will buy themselves junk food on the way home from school, or on the way to school – because they walk or take public transportation.

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bettina elias siegel June 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

Thanks for the international perspective – it’s very interesting to know what’s going on outside the US. And thank you for the links – I’ll check them out.

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Kevin Sevcik June 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Linked over here from Charles’s Kuffner’s Blog, Off The Kuff, so I’m coming into this a little late. Nevertheless…

I’m not a parent (yet), but you can put me firmly in the Anti-Cupcake crowd, for many of the above reasons related to controlling your child’s diet. Especially for a reason I’m surprised hasn’t come up yet: food allergies. If my kid had a food allergy, I’d be worried or annoyed about other parents sending random class snacks to school.

Worried, because there’s little chance any treat is going to miss all the major allergens: peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, and wheat. Try negotiating that culinary minefield without a degree in food science. And informing my child or her teacher of the various things she can’t eat wouldn’t help much if the only source of information is the classmate bringing the treats. Granted, I could let all the other parents know how to not poison my kid. Then I just have to depend on them to remember that and to be competent at not poisoning her.

Or, I could choose the annoyed route and simply insist that she never ever partake of any of the treats brought into class by the other kids. Which would work, but would obviously leave her bummed and left out of an otherwise delightful group activity.

So, really, unless you’ve actually taken the time to find out you’re not sending a nice heaping tray of nausea and diarrhea to school with your kid, you should probably leave the cupcakes at home and send along some balloons and bouncy balls or something.

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bettina elias siegel June 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Welcome, Kevin. I agree – the allergy issue is a whole other ball of wax I didn’t even touch on. But I’m sure parents of food-allergic kids share all the concerns you mention. – Bettina

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Kirstin June 16, 2010 at 1:21 am

As the mother of two children with celiac, I usually provide gluten free cupcakes when they are served at events my two kids will be attending. My daughter attends a school where they celebrate all the birthdays for the month on one day and they bring a non cupcake treat. Twice a year they are allowed cupcakes at a celebration. My son attends a preschool where the children bring cupcakes to celebrate their birthday. It did feel like I was baking cupcakes weekly for my son’s class of 20. I am like you, I like cupcakes as much, if not more, than the next person. But, I think it is healthier if cupcakes are limited during school time. Because cupcakes are going to be consumed outside of school too–at birthday parties and special occasions. It is just too much. I love food. I love sweets. I love baking. My blog is full of recipes for cupcakes. But, I am sick of food being the center of activities that should not involve food.

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bettina elias siegel June 16, 2010 at 6:20 am

Kristin – Welcome to the Lunch Tray! I think it’s so important to have the views of parents who, like you, have children with food allergies and sensitivities. You add an entirely new and important perspective to the discussion of “kids and food, in school and out.” By the way, I’m going to be giving your site a little shout-out this Friday, so look out for it! – Bettina

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Celia June 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I agree with so many of the points that have been made here! — When you have 25+ kids in a class who are bringing in birthday treats as well as the holiday parties and extra “celebrations” for everything from chorus to the school play the treat food really adds up. And no, it does not stop at age 11. This year in middle school kids brought in food for parties in their homeroom but there were no guidelines put on what they could bring. Most of them brought in chips and cookies, etc that the kids ate at 8:00 am. When kids aren’t offered healthy food options they develop a taste for the junk and this creates habits that are hard to break. I agree that it is a matter of more education. It is frustrating to see this year after year and surprising that more people are not concerned about it.

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nylawyermom July 2, 2010 at 9:48 am

Bettina –I hear you. I was dumb enough to ask my son’s 1st grade teacher what to send on his birthday. She requested a fruit salad, so I complied. It was beautiful – lots of colors and quantity – and the teacher did add goldfish and pretzels, so the snack had some zing, but my son said after school that his classmates were disappointed. I blame the other helicopter parents, who are sending very high-end sweets and actually showing up in person to take pictures of their disbursement! PS: At a recent birthday party, the mom (who I actually really like) got a big tray of fabulous cupcakes, arranged in tiers like a wedding cake. In theory, it’s better than a sheet cake, where they cut slices that are way too big. However, the wheeled-out cart with the stacked mass cupcake presentation, the huge cupcake sizes and over-the-top decoration of each one produced a hypnotic glazed effect over the crowd when they arrived, that you almost expected the background music of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And at that point, my kids shrieked when I tried to split one for them, because they felt morally entitled to a “single” portion. As for the state law amendment, you’ll get my cupcake when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

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sari July 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Bettina- our school is in the process of adopting new guidelines as to the cupcake/cookie debate for birthdays at school. Many great ideas came out of the meeting, but, all the parents agreed to – no cupcakes (cookies are still debatable). The school district came to our meeting to describe what was considered an appropriate cookie size and serving. Their answer amazed many of the parents – they said the size of one orea cookie or nabisco chocolate chip cookie would be considered an appropriate serving size. So, the grocery store bakery cookies i.e Sams, Costco, Krogers, are TOO LARGE and would be 2-3 servings per 1 cookie.

After hearing that, most parents agreed that food should not be served as a celebration of birthdays. Some of the ideas to replace food were: 1.) the child could pick a friend to sit next to them for the day. 2.) parent bring a small gift bag of items i.e. pencils, stickers, etc.. for the class or if PTO needs a fundraising idea they could create birthday bags that parents could buy for either just their child or for the whole class 3.)The teacher gives a special birthday hat for the child to wear for the day 4.) this was a big winner – the teacher or parent can buy a special birthday ribbon from the school store for their child to wear that day or parent can make a special ribbon for the child to wear. One of the main agreements was that the idea of a birthday celebration at school was – not to be a celebration at school – but for the child to feel special on their birthday, celebrations can and should be done at home.

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bettina elias siegel July 8, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Sari: Those are all such good ideas. I’m going to email you off-line to get some more specifics. Thanks so much for sharing with Lunch Tray readers. – Bettina

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Jen July 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

On the one hand, I’m very disappointed that our local school does not allow cupcakes and other treats to be brought to school to celebrate birthdays. One of my fondest memories as a child was of my mother bringing a homemade Cookie Monster cake to class on my birthday. I’m an early fall birthday, so it was the first week of kindergarten and the thrill on top of that excitement has stayed with me 30 years later. To be prohibited from doing the same for my daughter is very sad.

But, what upsets me more – and a line in your post prompted me to mention it – is that now students are required to invite *all* their classmates to their primary school birthday parties in order not to hurt anyone’s feelings by being left out. So, my child’s classmates won’t have to face the dreaded cupcake mountain at school, but will be asked to do so off the premises on a weekend. You can’t win for losing, I suppose.

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bettina elias siegel July 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Jen: As I said in my response to the pro-cupcake reader, I feel like these days, a cupcake is no longer just a cupcake. In other words, our society’s eating patterns have changed so dramatically in the past three or four decades that I just can’t view any one treat given to my children in a vacuum anymore, as much as I’d like to. So I, too, share your nostalgia for a time when a cupcake really was a TREAT and not a daily or near-daily event in my kids’ lives. Thanks for your comment – please keep sharing your thoughts on The Lunch Tray! – Bettina

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Lisa September 10, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I didn’t grow up with that and so I don’t feel the same nostalgia as you do about cupcakes in school. I don’t think they belong in school because I don’t have those associations. Also, my child has food allergies. I just will not ever understand why other parents feel it is just fine to send in treats for everyone but the two food allergic children. I am quite sure those same parents would be up in arms if *their* children were left out. It is bad enough that DS has to eat his own special food for every class party that occurs and food event but having 18 more other student birthdays to deal with is too much.

But more than any of that, I feel very strongly that *I* should be the person to decide what my child eats and how often he eats treats. I don’t want him eating a treat because you or some other person want to send cupcakes. Have your party *out of school*. No one can stop that. You can have kids over and have as big of a party as you like. Why does learning time have to be spent on cupcakes? I think it is a waste of time. We have to make up school if the children are not there by the exact decided time for a delay day in the case of snow. If school can not start at 10 am we can’t count that day as a whole day and then we have to make up the day. Even one more minute longer and we would make up the day. So, why should we spend 15 min x 18 kids on cupcakes? Maybe I”m a big kill joy. I’m sorry. Your post was polite and sweet and I can kind of see your side but my POV is opposite.

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Stephanie September 6, 2010 at 8:39 am

I’m the fruit and veggie mom in my son’s class. Sadly enough, I’m the only mom who brings in fruit and veggies. I also help serve the food so I can be sure that my son, who has ADHD, doesn’t have too many sweets. I’ve taught him what he can and can’t have and generally he’s good at not eating a lot of junk, but he is only 6 and the temptation is there. I think cupcakes in the classroom wouldn’t be too bad, if they weren’t frosted.

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bettina elias siegel September 6, 2010 at 8:41 am

Stephanie: I agree that cupcakes in and of themselves aren’t bad at all – what tips me over the edge is how many treats my kids seem to get regularly at school. Thanks for visiting The Lunch Tray and sharing your comment! – Bettina

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Kelly September 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Just want to add —

I’m a former teacher and a current sub, and as a former teacher and current sub I can attest to the ton of sweet treats in the classrooms.

I’m also the mother of two food-allergic kids — severe allergic reactions to milk, egg, and peanut. In their classrooms, there has been a ton of sweet treats.

But I as their mother cannot stand the thought of my two kids sitting there watching the rest of the kids eat their cupcakes; therefore, I bake a great deal so that my kids will have their own safe cupcakes. When my children have their own birthdays, we buy small toys such as something from Oriental Trading and hand those out to the kids instead of a birthday treat. The kids love the toys.

However, in an ideal world, I would prefer NO FOOD IN THE CLASSROOM. It just is not necessary for my child’s education. Do the party food outside school, at home, at the restaurant, wherever you choose to have your child’s party.

I’m really pleased to see that there are more and more parents who agree to the No Food rule, for whatever reason — food allergy, nutrition, etc.

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bettina elias siegel September 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Kelly: It’s always so important to hear the perspective of the parent of the food-allergic child, as that’s often not even taken into account in this debate. Thank you for reading The Lunch Tray and hope you comment again. – Bettina

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Bliss0812 September 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Every birthday I wake my kids up with a cupcake and its joyous. I grew up without sugar, not being allowed the school cupcakes or cake or ice cream at parties, and it made sugar too precious, I became a sugar and sugar-free addict as soon as I could. I have a 90/10 house, meaning 90% healthy, 10% unhealthy. My babies know that sugar will not help them grow, or nourish their bodies, that its a fun extra. My daughter avoided the frosting on her cupcake, ate two bites of cake, all her strawberries and her almond milk and was ecstatic. I think its important to equip your children to live in the world. A mother has every right to say no, in my world though, I feel better knowing my kids can take two bites, walk away and just perfer the fruit…that took me decades.

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bettina elias siegel September 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Bliss: I totally agree – we are also a household in which nothing is “off limits” and although dessert is only officially sanctioned on Friday nights (as part of our Shabbat meal), believe me, my kids are getting plenty of treats throughout the week, whether from school handouts or from goodies I sometimes slip into the lunch box (like pudding, cookies, etc.) or from other people’s homes. I guess my feeling (and I can’t tell if you disagree or not) is why not let this be a matter of parental choice, and keep the school environment treat-free? Thanks for reading and commenting on The Lunch Tray! – Bettina

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Jennifer September 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

As the parent of two children with multiple food allergies, I am constantly frustrated by the birthday treats and idea of shared snack. Even with “safe snack” lists, my son cannot participate as he has allergies to gluten and egg (snacks have to shelf stable, non-messy, etc – which limits our choices to very expensive gluten free bars, raisins, pre-packaged popcorn or the unhealthy chip option). So while the other kids share their snacks, my son sits with his own snack, a kindergarten outcast. And there are the birthday treats – I cannot keep cupcakes at my son’s school (we are not allowed to keep things in the freezer) because they are not shelf stable. We never know when treats are coming in, so I have a bag for him to choose from – again pointing out his differences to all of his classmates. Yes, from a safety standpoint, he needs to know (and he does) that his dietary needs are different. However its a violation of his medical rights to have this pointed out to all of his classmates day in and day out.

Food allergies are covered under the Americans with Disabilites Act as a hidden disability. You wouldn’t deny a handicapped ramp or elevator for a child with a wheelchair – why is it okay to have this onslaught of treats that are potentially dangerous for a lot of students?

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Jennifer (again) September 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I wanted to add – it’s not just about snacks and birthday treats. There are also parties to celebrate every season – oh look, the sun came up, let us have a cupcake. And what about other food based projects? My son was supposed to build a gingerbread house in school last year. I found the gluten free graham crackers, safe candy and spent weeks researching safe icing (the royal icing they planned to use had egg in it). I finally gave up and bought him a foam gingerbread house to construct and arranged to spend time with him in class constructing it – and then they canceled the project in favor of doing gingerbread men. There are no safe recipes for gingerbread, precious little that allow you to roll out cookies, etc. My son came up with the idea to cut out a shape from his special bread and we bought decorations and icing for him to use.

Then there are the 100 day projects, alphabet food extravaganzas, end of year parties, Halloween/fall festival party, spring party, winter holiday party, Valentine’s Day party, let’s make pancakes in class, taste apples, etc.

I could never concentrate on how my son was doing in class – it was what do I have to supply (ie order from a specialty shop, drive all over town, have someone send me from Canada, etc) so he can participate?

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bettina elias siegel September 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Jennifer – I’m so glad to get the perspective of the parents of food-allergic kids on The Lunch Tray. You offer yet another — and perhaps more compelling – reason why we just don’t need food in the classroom. Don’t know if you saw my earlier post on “Why Kids + Food = Conversational Hot Potato,” but there I talk about a project my kids used to make at their Jewish preschool – a torah made from licorice, marshmallows, cake frosting, etc. And in my kids’ science class I often hear of junk-food-based projects like the one that used corn syrup, red hots, and other candy to demonstrate the circulatory system. Using sweets in class is a cheap and easy way for the teacher to get the kids’ attention and affection, but it’s not necessary and — as in the case of children like yours — possibly dangerous and definitely exclusionary. Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope you’ll come back and visit often. – Bettina

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Sara February 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I know I’m late to this conversation, but I just found your blog this morning and wanted to add my support to the anti-cupcake-in-school movement and to everything Jennifer just said. Both my kids have multiple, anaphylactic food allergies and food in school is an issue I care about deeply. I hope my thoughts come across clearly because this isn’t something I’ve written about before and a lot of ideas are kind of jumbled up in my head!

When our children go to school they become part of a community and a community is supposed to care about it’s members. Having to think about people other than one’s self is a valuable teaching opportunity and when we cave to the peer pressure (or to whatever we are getting out of it personally) to bring in cupcakes what message are we sending to our kids? That their need to feel special on their birthday is more important than another child’s right to be safe at school? I find this generation of kids extremely aware of allergies and I think most of them would understand why cupcakes at school isn’t a safe choice.

I’ve read over and over again (not on this blog but on other message boards debating the same issue) that these allergy kids need to understand that they are not the centre of the universe and that they will grow up feeling entitled if everyone changes things to protect them. I can tell you as an allergy mom that nobody with food allergies feels entitled. You wouldn’t believe the work that goes in to trying to make things safe for the kids. My kids have been aware of their allergies since they have been 12 and 15 months respectively which is when they each had their first reactions. They have carried this responsibility with them wherever they go (along with their epipens). They don’t eat food unless it is brought from home or if I’ve been able to confirm it will be safe for them ahead of time. They don’t have the same spontaneity in their lives as most other kids. But that’s okay they are really happy in spite of this. Still allergies are not something that anyone would choose. Not for their kids and not for themselves. I believe kids with allergies grow up to be caring, compassionate people who pay attention to their surroundings and those around them because they can’t afford to walk around the world obliviously. I know this because I married someone who has allergies and he is all these things and more.

But what about the child who is sent the message, we’re going to do this thing that isn’t safe for everyone because you deserve to have cupcakes at school for your birthday? How entitled is that kid going to grow up?

Personally, I can’t get my head around the debate. We’re all good people who love our kids. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s stop feeding each other’s kids at school!

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bettina elias siegel February 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

Sara: It’s never too late to join this conversation and I think you articulated your position beautifully. As you may know from reading the comment thread, food allergies weren’t even in my head when I first wrote this response to the Libertarian Mom. (My kids are (knock wood) allergy-free so the issue just wasn’t on my radar.) But very quickly I was (nicely) schooled by moms of allergic kids who showed me an entirely different justification, sufficient in and of itself, to keep food out of classrooms. Thanks very much for commenting here and I hope you remain a TLT reader! – Bettina

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Sara February 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Thanks Bettina! We are in Canada where it seems to me to be an issue more focused around food allergies (but I could be wrong about that). I know lots of parents who prefer for their kids not to have so many treats at school but I’m not sure if there are enough people sharing that opinion to sway any changes at this point. However, at our school we have been making headway starting with the allergy issue and then taking into consideration nutritional, medical, cultural and religious reasons to get “out of the food business” in school.

Best to you and I will continue to read TLT!

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Lindtfree September 24, 2010 at 8:55 pm

When I first learned about “no homemade treats” rules in the mid-1990s, I was initially appalled. I don’t recall that my own mother let me bring treats to school on my birthdays, but some children did. Those of us who were in Brownies took turns bringing treats to meetings, and these were usually homemade.

As a child I LOVED bakery cake, probably because all the bakeries in my hometown made cakes that tasted as good as they looked. In the metro region where I now live, I know of only one bakery (which is hard to find even for some people who grew up here!) where the cakes have tasted as good. Most parents probably buy their children’s school cupcakes at one of two “discount” grocery chains; one’s bakery is mediocre at best and the other’s is absolutely awful.

Though childfree myself, I have heard many times over the years how expensive it is to buy bakery cupcakes for an entire class of children. If a family is low-income, the best a parent can probably do is buy a few boxes of Little Debbies.

By the time I was in my mid-30s, despite many years of attempting “moderation” and having otherwise good eating habits, I knew I was a HOPELESS chocolate/dessert addict. Therefore, I had two choices: stop eating chocolate and other desserts completely, or eventually become morbidly obese. Though living with my decision to quit “cold turkey” was very difficult during the first few weeks, eventually my pancreas downregulated its insulin production and I was no longer hungry so often. In the long term, chocolate/dessert abstinence is a no-brainer. However, in some social situations, I know how people in AA must feel. Even after several years, I still get clueless questions (“You mean you don’t even eat dessert on holidays?”) or insensitive comments (“I would have offered you a truffle too, but I know you don’t like chocolate”). No, the problem is that I DO like chocolate. Way too much!

Considering my dessert-free status, my view of classroom cupcakes has obviously changed. Some children’s parents don’t want them eating too much (or any) junk food. Also, others have food allergies or have ethical dietary requirements (vegetarian, kosher, et cetera).

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bettina elias siegel September 25, 2010 at 6:15 am

Lindtfree – (love that name, btw!) – I think a lot of us grew up with treats in the classroom but it’s not our imaginations that things were a lot different back then. As I’ve cited a few times on TLT, 98% of kids today snack at least three times a day, and 50% snack five or more times a day. And they’re more sedentary. Taken together, I can’t help but view all those school treats differently now. And, of course, then there are all the reasons you mention above why a parent may not want someone else’s treat in the classroom. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. – Bettina

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FirstinLine November 14, 2010 at 6:27 pm

The cupcake problem isn’t who did not get one, what was the fat content, or any of the above comments. The workers at those schools have to undergo continuous training and pass a sanitation course which states that they are certified to cook in a public institution. Furthermore, the manager must take a sanitation exam which is pretty intense (I’ve been a Food Service Director for 16 years). The facility is inspected by the health department, usually twice a year. What everyone is basically saying is, we should disregard those regulations when there’s a Birthday. The intentions are great, but quite honestly, most of the prepping and cooking done in your home, would not pass in a school environment. Some counties do have laws which state that food cannot be prepared at home and served to the public. It is a good law which needs to be universally adopted.

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bettina elias siegel November 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

FirstinLine – wow, a whole other angle I hadn’t thought about! Thanks for commenting here. – Bettina

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Elizabeth November 18, 2010 at 10:42 am

For most kids and adults ” One, a cupcake isn’t a deadly agent like cigarette smoke” is true. I have two kids that are anaphylatic to foods. Things like milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, coconut oil can kill them. I often find myself telling them no classroom cupcakes and I feel like a heal doing it. I’d rather them suffer with no treat than have a reaction and possibly die instead of coming home from school in the afternoon.

Why not celebrate those summer birthdays by sending in things kids can use like fun shaped erasers, fun pencils, maybe some small notepads so they can write down homework assignments?

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bettina elias siegel November 18, 2010 at 10:57 am

Elizabeth: Agreed!! Sometimes I think we could just stop this argument in its tracks on just the basis of food allergies alone. Why should someone’s relatively frivolous desire to celebrate at school with sweets trump something as important as a food-allergic child’s safety? At any rate, look for my guest post tomorrow on this topic on The Wellness Bitch, which includes the food allergen point. I’ll put the link here when it’s up. Thanks for commenting here! – Bettina

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Firstinline November 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Actually, my point was that there is a danger in food being produced at home where it is unsupervised, inspected and usually made by a person who is not certified to cook for the public. As a Food Service Director, everyday somewhere in my subconscious is the fear that a worker will improperly prep a product, or a product will be tainted through an improper procedure or from an off site delivery. Everyone posting will defend themselves as being a person who knows right from wrong. Fact is, most domestic kitchens and parents would not pass code.
My pet peeve are bake sales. Well intentioned people raising money for a good cause. Just not compatible with rules and regulations governing public consumption. Erasers, tickets to shows, etc are a great alternative…………probably not as exciting, sorry.

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Patty Hart November 27, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I just read your cupcake article in the paper today and could not agree with you more! I have a 3rd grader and a 1st grader and feel like I am getting bombed with junky snacks and treats all the time. We even had to provide a snack for my son’s cub scout meeting…..which was held after dinner. We have had a teacher that would bring in doughnuts on Friday’s. It is not a nanny state…..I just want to be the one to decide when to treat my kids.

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Alice March 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

My child attended a Waldorf school for the preschool years. The nice thing about Waldorf is that the community tends toward healthy. The children cooked lunch together and it was all organic, whole grains, lots of fruit and veggies. That part was great. They do a very special and elaborate birthday ritual which includes the treat – homemade something at the end. Honestly, I am in complete agreement with a no-cupcake policy. However, I’m not so sure I’d disturb the Waldorf world. My child is food allergic. So I cooked him homemade goods for EVERY birthdya plus cookie for the class at Christmas. AND I GOT FAT ! FAT FAT FAT. This much baked goods is deadly for the middle-aged. And it can’t really be that good for the kids to attend multiple cake parties. Yes my kid gets three cakes per birthday. Class, athom-the day-of, and birthday party cake. Every birthday now is three cakes. WAY. TOO. MUCH. Find another ritual for the classroom.

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Bettina Elias Siegel March 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

Alice – thanks for sharing your experiences. I love the idea of kids cooking lunch all together, btw!

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Sonya April 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

At my child’s elementary school we have birthday cupcakes, however they are distributed to only the birthday child in their birthday month ,and are mini sized. This way every child gets a celebratory cupcake , but only once a year :)

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Sonya April 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I should also add that we keep allergy forms on every child in the school , so if there is a food allergy etc. those children will be given an alternative to the cupcake.

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Bettina Elias Siegel April 16, 2011 at 7:04 am

Sonya: I never heard of a school doing that! Just out of curiosity, is it public or private?

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A. Ali August 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

I am going to go against the grain and state that I have nothing against cupcakes in schools. Perhaps the passionate debate has more to do with control and/or lack of it; than anything else. In today’s modern society in the US (especially), families are relying heavily on prepackaged foods rather than fresh vegetables and produce. Unfortunately, these packaged foods contain more chemicals, fructose syrup and other additives than the world has ever consumed before. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, constant television and/or gaming results in poor health. I suggest that families stand up against the true culprit, general bad eating habits (soft drinks, morning cereals – Cocoa Puffs, etc.) and reliance on electronic entertainment, rather than scapegoating the odd cupcake at school…..

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Bettina Elias Siegel August 29, 2011 at 8:48 am

A. Ali – I don’t think we’re actually that far apart. I guess I would say that precisely because of the systemic, societal problems you cite above, it’s hard to look at that birthday cupcake in a vacuum anymore. In other words, with kids now deluged by prepackaged foods, HFCS, constant provision of snacks, etc., and with both obesity and allergies alarmingly on the rise, do we have the luxury of ignoring in-class treats, the way we might have 40 years ago? That’s all I’m saying. And for the record, in terms of my own personal diet and what I give my kids, I’m all for the occasional cupcake and other treats as well. But I do resent it when my kids come home from school loaded up with sugar (or worse, lots of artificial crap I’d never otherwise give them), thereby depriving me of any oversight or input about it. What do you think?

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A. Ali September 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Bettina,
Thanks for your insight and comment. Though if a child has a healthy diet at home, then doesn’t one have the luxury of ignoring an in school treat? Also, please bear in mind, sacrificing the in-school cupcake will not necessarily a healthy child make; that is my main point. Parents should be more passionate about what they prepare for their kids on a daily basis at home – Cheerios, tacos, artificial macaroni and cheese, graham crackers, ketchup anyone? All of these “foods” seem innocent, but as a reader I can’t help but constantly note all the “artificial crap” on the labels.

I understand, it is difficult for working parents (men or women) to prepare food from fresh vegetables rather than the prepackaged foods, but the lifestyle and health benefits are worth the effort. Also, fresh produce is more expensive – though the increase in health will hopefully reduce any required visits to the doctor or medication.

Regarding a parents’ insight or input about the odd cupcake at school…. Is it really a “deprivation” to the mother? And if so, why? After reading the previous comments, control seems to be a concern, but I don’t see why…. Also, there are social benefits to “breaking bread (cupcakes)” and school is a good place for a child to establish independence as an individual within defined boundaries. Food for thought…..

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Julie Sparks November 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Wow. I saw this post from a friend I usually am on board with. Not this time. The 1st 2 things I think you really should reconsider…
1. Don’t compare cupcakes or food to 2nd hand smoke. That makes someone seem foolish in thought when clearly you have a strong belief and opinion. I won’t even go into detail on why that argument makes no sense. 2. Please don’t lump your desire for specific items put into your child’s body based on your research and concern and so on…with that of a kid who has a food allergy. THEY ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT! I have a kid with a severe food allergy (egg and nut). And when I am teaching my 2.5 year old Sunday school class and a parent puts down food allergy, when really I find out later they just don’t want the kid to have the store bought treat the church provides, it really bothers me. I respect that option, but when you put allergy on the kids tag…another ball game. You note, (I’m just going by memory) why should ‘I have to tell my glossy eyed 7 year old no to the cupcake’, well bc you are the one saying no. So it is you that needs to SAY NO. I reverse that ? to you. Why should I have to tell my 7 year old who cannot wait to share with her class no bc you don’t want your kid to have it? That makes no sense. The burden is on you. Just as when I have to tell my 8 year old for the past 6.5 or so years, you cannot eat the bday treats or whatever, mommy packed you something else, she learns self discipline. Was it hard at first? Yes, but now she is fine with it. I do the same when we go to a Taco Cabana and the news is on the big screen. If no one else is there I will ask to change it. If people are there I tell my kids to not look at it. Do they try, yes.. but I am teaching them to control themselves bc we cannot and should not control everyone around us. I WOULD never ask another parent to modify their ‘celebration’ for me. Allergy or not. That ranks up there with making a ‘registry’ for a kids bday part gift list! Seriously it makes no sense. And if you are going the obese route… do you REALLY think kids are obese bc of school? I admit that school meals could be a lot better. But it is what they get at home…most likely they have obese parents. They do what they see. So me or someone bringing bday treats to school, healthy or not, is not going to make your child obese. You can use it as a teaching tool. And you say it cuts into schools teaching time. Not when done at lunch. But getting a ‘district’ to address this as an issue, that cuts into the little amount of money we have to educate our kids. Leave that for them to teach them to read so they can look at labels someday and make better choices. I have to honestly say that as a mom of 5 kids, last one with special needs it sounds like people jumping on this as an ‘issue’ don’t have enough to deal with. Just my little ole opinion!

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Julie – I appreciate your views but I do want to clarify a few things. First, I would never advocate telling a school or other organization your kid has a food allergy just to have them avoid food you don’t approve of for nutritional reasons. That unfairly puts the school or group on high alert and drains their resources for no reason. I’ve never suggested that anyone do this, so I’m not sure how you drew that conclusion. Second, I’m not sure why my second hand smoke analogy bothers you so much – if my child is unable to get up and leave a classroom, he’s just as trapped as I am in an elevator. During the school day he’s pretty much at the mercy of the school in terms of everything that happens to him there (the subject matter taught, the foods served, the safety of the building, etc.). That’s relevant to me when food is brought in by another parent, without my knowledge or approval. Third, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, but if your child can share food with her friends anywhere else (your home, an off site party, etc.), and if her serving of food at school is objectionable to anyone at school for any rational reason (allergy, obesity, religious dietary restriction or nutritional concerns), I just don’t see how you “win” that one. Fourth, in most districts you CANNOT serve birthday treats at lunch as you are not supposed to be detracting from children’s ability to eat their packed or purchased lunch, so loss of classroom time for serving, eating and cleaning remains a real issue. And finally, I don’t see how it costs a district any money to simply say, no outside food (or no non-nutritive food) in classrooms, end of story. But even if we disagree, I’m glad to get your “little ole opinion” – that’s what makes blogging interesting! Thanks for stopping by TLT.

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anon December 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Please keep writing about this. My child has life-threatening allergies.

I don’t understand why we can’t adopt no-food birthdays or no-food in the classroom from families.

Accidents happen at schools because we are all human. Why not eliminate this risk?

At least 1 in 25 kids today has food allergies and is left out of these “celebrations”. Not to mention diabetics, ADHD kids with limited sugar.

As a nation we have a growing obesity epidemic.

Why is nostalgia for a different time…when cupcakes were ok in school prevailing over health? Back in that nostalgic time, we also didn’t have internet, ipads, and other things that have evolved.

Why aren’t we evolving with the times and concerns of our day?

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yearslate September 26, 2012 at 11:25 am

My child and several others also have allergies. I have a condition that damages my liver if I eat fruit or fructose in any form. Every daycare and elementary school my child has been in made it my job to provide my child with appropriate snack on kids birthdays. A note came home saying: x is having classroom birthday on Monday. If you don’t want (or trust) the fact that your child will forego snack then send one for them.

The point being that it is your (and even your 3 year olds) responsibility to deal with not eating the snack. One is my kids has a bad heart and cannot run/do strenous activity: it doesn’t mean the whole school should not run to spare my child, it means my child does not participate. Yes, he is 8 and cries quite a bit about sitting out recess but that is life.

At our public school, we do have a list from teacher stating to try to find snacks without x, y, z (x, y, z being whatever allergies exist in the classroom: this year no cow’s milk, peaches, pears, bananas, peatnuts, cashews, and shell fish). The private school one child goes to says no snacks ever to be brought other than ‘healthy’ fruit and veggies in a childs lunch (they have a huge list of non-healthy things not allowed on school premises including things that others are allergic too like PB&J sandwiches, even for a particular childs own consumption: which always strikes me as hilarious as due to my personal condition I can eat a diabetic diet(regular sugar breaks down to fructose), meat and other animal products (eggs), drink milk/water/diet soda/black coffee ONLY, and eat no fruits and only 5 types of veggies).

I am obese (yes, BMI in obese range) too due to lack of exercise.

The right of 24 kids to eat cupcakes and enjoy and be happy should outweigh 1 persons right not too. Just because they are kids they have ‘rights’. You wouldn’t want you boss telling you not to eat something simply because someone else at work can’t so why expect kids not too. One of greatest pleasure in most kids life is birthdays. By the time they are 15 or so they won’t care about it but 3-8 especially like to feel special and celebrated and in day of invite all 24 classmates, school snack is often the only time they get.

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Bettina Elias Siegel September 27, 2012 at 8:02 am

yearslate: Thank you for sharing this perspective. As you know, usually parents of kids with food allergies are not in favor of food in the classroom, so it’s interesting to me that you don’t share this view. I do wonder, though, if your child’s food allergy is life threatening, as some children’s are. That, of course, could heighten one’s concern. As for your last paragraph, I guess I’d say this: sometimes the issue really is one child having an allergy and 23 kids whose parents are completely happy about birthday treats. But in my experience, often many in that group of 23 have grumbling concerns that they don’t necessarily voice to the school because they don’t arise to the level of life-threatening allergy. Parents like me, who think, when their kid comes home with a blue-icing-smeared face — seriously, again? Again my kid has had junk food at school that I knew nothing about, that might now interfere with my plan to offer a treat for snack or dessert, that contains ingredients we normally try to avoid, like artificial food dye, or that spoils his appetite for the healthy snack I’ve made? Just something to think about.

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anon December 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

why does the parent in the libertarian post feel she has more right to bringing a cupcake, than my child’s right to be safe at school?

That is NUTS!

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anon December 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

you present a very good argument and perspective

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Catherine February 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

I’m late to comment here, but as a mom of a child who is very reactive to sugar, I wish he could never have treats at school. My son gets very hyperactive when given a small amount of sugar. If you give him a grocery store sized cupcake with frosting, well, you better do it just before recess, otherwise he’ll probably be sent to the principal’s office for disrupting the class.

Also, as you said, it limits my ability to give him treats. I rely on that 1 dessert after dinner to convince him to eat vegetables. And he knows the drill, after he eats his veggies, he gets dessert. So you see the issue if he already had his 1 treat that day.

And sugary snacks are epidemic. We go to the drug store, the bank or to get a haircut, they give him a sucker. The grocery store gives cookies. Last week we started a new art class on Sundays, they gave the kids animal cookies during a 45min class. All of this needs to end. Then maybe we can actually call these a treat again.

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Julie September 27, 2012 at 8:20 am

This thread is old! But obviously relevant. What
I would say, as a mom of 2 kids with pretty severe
Food allergies and 3 with none:
Concern should be raised and addressed and taking
Into consideration if there is a true threat
Bc of a child’s allergies. I am not talking about
The parent who sees ‘sugar or dye’ as a threat.
3-4 months out of the year ur kid isn’t even at school
So the other 8-9 months get over it. 23 birthdays
Out of how many days of school? My opinion is find a
Parent who has lost a kid or fights for proper education
Without trying to sound to terrible heartless
Get a real problem. Once that happened to us
I quickly realized all of this other stuff…
It doesn’t really make that big of a difference

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Bettina Elias Siegel September 27, 2012 at 9:07 am

Julie:

If you’re going to compare this issue to the death of a child, then of course I may as well fold up this blog right now as nothing I discuss here rises to the level of that unspeakable tragedy. If your family has suffered this loss (I wasn’t sure if that’s what you were saying) then you have my deepest condolences.

As for the number of days at issue, as mentioned in this post, in our school, summer birthdays are celebrated in May. So in a crowded public school classroom with 180 instructional days, 1/7th of the school year can be cupcake day.

But clearly you don’t think this is a problem, and I appreciate your sharing your view here.

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BC January 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Wow! The land of fruits and nuts….

Don’t be surprised if your Justin Bieber type kid gets his low trans-fat butt kick daily, and that your quest not offend his ego and super-ego with common sense lands him a job in Burger King.

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Alicia August 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Thank you so much for this post. Its so nice to hear a well-written opinion on the subject that has been driving me mad the last two years of my son being in public school. We are now in the first week of his third year, and ice cream was brought to school today. Immediately I went to the office to complain about the parent handbook’s note of parents bringing healthy treats for birthdays already being ignored.

Last year I took the matter into my own hands by designing and printing out a list of ideas for alternatives to frosted cupcakes and iced doughnuts that come on average once a week. And I set the example at the beginning of the year with my son’s birthday treat being star-shaped watermelon pops (watermelon on a stick). Yet parents continued to send high-sugar treats, sometimes even sending enough so the kids in the after school spanish class could have one too, meaning my son had TWO maple bar doughnuts that day.

So upon addressing my concern as calmly as I could to office staff, I was told the school, while recommending “healthy treats”, could not enforce it. My response in a nutshell, “BULL CRAP! You sure can. If you make it part of your policy.” (I didn’t actually say it that harshly, thank heavens, as that was what was going through my head.) To which I was told such policy needed to come from the school district. So it is now my mission to acquire as much information and support to bring to our district to evoke a new policy against bringing sugary treats for class celebrations. Wish me luck!

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Julie August 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Ok. A 3rd grader can say no. I think before flipping out on the district
About policy, I would teach my kid to say no.
In 6th grade up they will have access to tons
Of unhealthy choices. So really at 3rd grade age(I have 2 of them
And one already out of 3rd and 2 that will be there soon enough)
They should have learned they ability of self control

Just my 2cents

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Alicia August 28, 2013 at 11:27 pm

First of all, he’s in 2nd grade…not 3rd. Regardless, yes, he can say “no”. But how fair is it to have all the kids in the class shoving junk food in their faces and expect a little boy to say no? How often do adults even have such self control? Not much if you look at our obese society.

Second of all, I spoke with the principal last week, and apparently it is on the district’s agenda as of last year to change the birthday celebration treat options. He is on the same page as I am and strongly discouraged all parents at back-to-school night from bringing high sugar foods and has instructed the teaching staff to do the same in their classrooms. So it looks like I won’t have to “flip out” on the district (as you so nicely put it) as they are beginning to create policies that parallel the healthy eating standards they are already trying to teach the children by eliminating junk food as a way to celebrate birthdays and opt for healthy treats or goodie bags instead.

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John Burton August 17, 2013 at 7:08 am

In a nutshell, it is hypocritical. Last year the USDA changed the guidelines for school lunch that greatly increased the nutrition levels of students in the National School Lunch Program. The school lunch program, without a doubt, has the highest nutritional standards in society. Yet, we are still overwhelmed with discussions regarding obesity and children eating poorly. Nutritional education and eating healthy should not be confined to the lunchroom hours. Schools are we educate our youth to grow up with healthy minds and bodies. If it is “ok” to occasionally have cupcakes or ice cream socials in classrooms, then it is “ok” for the English teacher to occasionally use the word aint in the classroom.

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Nicole Usner October 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

I hardly have the insight to weigh in here, but I do believe that the cupcake controversy is a budding argument that continues to grow each year. While, yes, it is nice to be able to bring in a treat to celebrate your child’s birthday, it is not the healthiest of things. In 2012 alone, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. While there could be more deciding factors such as, more convenience to give one’s child junk or fast food because you work two jobs and that is all you can still afford, there is also the fact that school is sometimes the healthiest food a child eats all day. If you, as a parent who can give your child healthy food at home, brings in these so called birthday cupcakes, you ruin the other child’s only healthy meal for the day by giving him/her sugar and fatty food such as a cupcake.

If a parent would like to celebrate their child’s birthday, why not bring in something that the children can enjoy and is healthy. Healthy life-style habits are things that can prevent obesity and the long-term health affects that come with them. One of these habits can be eating healthy. Every parent has the right to decide what their child can or cannot eat, and her or she should not have to worry about what his/her child is eating throughout the school day and whether or not it is healthy.

I am not saying to ditch the birthday celebration treats altogether, but, instead, to make them healthier and improve the health of the children in the long run. Or maybe, to celebrate birthday’s, have schools offer class an extra recess or the opportunity to play a game with the students in celebration of a child’s birthday. This gives the children a chance to be more active in the classroom and it keeps parents from feeling like they are neglecting to celebrate the birthday of their children.

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Josh Karl October 28, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Personally, i am twenty one and in college and do not have kids of my own. However, i believe that the best way to end such a controversy is in the home. If people teach their children proper dieting choices then we wouldnt have to worry about telling kids what they can and cant do in the classroom. Whenever i was a kid we would always bring sweets and snacks in on our birthdays to give to fellow classmates. Back then, their was no big issue or parents telling their kid that they cant have a treat. Nowadays, if we properly educate children on healthy living then this wont be a problem. Kids need to know that it is okay to eat cake, cupcakes, cookies, and sweets. Just in variation. According to the CDC, In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. It is now two years later, and we live in a time and age where nutrition and healthy living have become a huge issue in society. childhood obesity is increasing and this can lead to further damages to these children later on in life. Obesity is leading to cardivascular problems, as well as the development of diabetes. Essentially, our best job we can do is to teach kids how to live a balanced, and well dieted lifestyle

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Matt Wherry October 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm

GAY my kid will eat a cupcake whenever. Worst thing I’ve ever read.

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Richard Marnic October 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I think that the decision to eat the cupcake should be up to the child. It should be up to the child because the child’s parent isn’t there to make that decision. If the child wants the cupcake then the child can have it.

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Richard Marnic October 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I think that the decision to eat the cupcake should be up to the child. It should be up to the child because the child’s parent isn’t there to make that decision. If the child wants the cupcake then the child can have it, as long as the child knows the consequences of eating the cupcake.

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Joel Westcott October 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I believe that the child should be warned about the consequences of eating sugary, unhealthy snacks. Beyond that, the child should be able to eat whatever they wish as long as he or she knows what these treats are doing to them. At one point or another, the child will have to make their own choices, so I believe that teaching the consequences is ultimately the only effective way to ensure the risks of these sugary snacks is ultimately avoided.

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Amanda Sugent October 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

In the typical cupcake, you will find about 131 calories. It takes roughly 3,500 calories in order to gain a pound. That mean in order to gain a full pound by eating only cupcakes, you would need to consume 27 cupcakes. Unless your child is eating the entire class’s share of cupcakes and then some, I do not believe there is any need to worry. While obesity is a problem in today’s society, under-eating is just as big of a problem. In order to maintain a good, your child needs to consume an appropriate amount of calories, sugars, and–believe it or not!–fat in order to maintain his health. Don’t strip your child from the occasional enjoyment of a sugary treat and don’t force this responsibility onto other parents.

Cupcakes for one, cupcakes for all.

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Josh Karl October 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

personally, i do not have children of my own being that i am only twenty one and attending college. However, i do feel that the issue at hand should not be s huge problem. growing up in elementary school, I , as well as my fellow classmates would always make treats to take in on a birthday. I believe that by telling your kid that they can not partake in this is not fair to them. What parents need to do is enforce healthy eating habits at home so that children know how to enforce it in school. Children need to know that while obesity is becoming a problem and they have to develop healthy eating habits early, that it is okay to endulge in having sweets and junk food once in a while. Set kid up with a regulated, healthy, eating habit at home and start teaching them good nutrition early. This way they know whats healthy and whats harmful, but so that they dont fear sweets and junkfood, but they can enjoy it occasionally. According to the Center for Disease control In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. It is 2014 now, and we do have a lot of newer nutrition programs across the world and ways to maintain a healthy diet. Dieticions, and nutritionists are becoming a very large growing field. Therefore, we can utilize such services to help ourselves and our children of the future to live healthier lifestyles. We dont want to see children become obese and overweight because we want them to live long and healthy lives. Obesity can lead to multiple cardiovascular problems or development of diabetes. Please just do yourselves a favor and teach your kids proper nutrition.

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Holly McMasters October 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I personally believe that if you want your child to eat healthier, tell them not to eat it. If they eat a cupcake it will not harm them unless they eat cupcakes every single day. Saying that cupcakes in a classroom trap kids into having to eat them is untrue. Being in a grocery store you may see foods that are unhealthy but you choose to walk away from it and not buy them. To prevent children from being obese, they should get more exercise playing outside. To prevent arguments among parents, people should bring in whatever their child would like and bring a healthy alternative so children can choose whether to be healthy or unhealthy.

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Bettina Elias Siegel October 30, 2014 at 6:42 am

Just want to apologize to the last few commenters above for taking two days to approve your comments, which prompted some of you to resubmit. (I’ve posted both versions of your comments if they differ.) I’m normally much faster about approving comments, but for some reason was not receiving alerts as I usually do. And thanks to all for sharing your views, even if you disagree with mine.

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