My New 40-Page eBook on Getting Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom

Kids Classroom Guide FinalAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in conjunction with The Lunch Tray’s relaunch I’ve also created what I hope will be a really useful resource for Lunch Tray readers.  It’s a 40-page (!) ebook devoted to the number one complaint I hear from you most often: the unwelcome influx of junk food into your child’s classroom.

In The Lunch Tray’s Guide to Getting Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom, I address a wide variety of topics including: how wellness policies and the new federal “Smart Snacks” rules relate to classroom junk food; the tricky problem of birthday treats and how to respond to your opponents on that issue; the use of junk food as a classroom reward; the use of candy as a teaching “manipulative;” kids and sugar consumption; and much more.  Here’s a sneak peek slide show of a few of the book’s pages, including the table of contents:

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The book includes tips and materials from some of my favorite fellow bloggers, including Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition, Casey Hinds of U.S. Healthy Kids and Stacy Whitman of School Bites, as well as a Resources section with links to helpful websites and organizations.  It also links to my new and improved Pinterest boards, which now have separate collections devoted to healthy classroom celebrations, grouped by holiday or occasion.

To receive your totally free copy of the ebook, just enter your email address here.  You’ll also be signed up to receive The Lunch Tray’s new newsletter, which will share prior Lunch Tray posts as well as features like kid-approved recipes, cooking tips and tricks, kid-food news items and more.  (Rest assured: I’ll never, ever share your email with any third party and you can unsubscribe at any time.)

In this ebook I’ve drawn on my own real-life lessons in advocacy to offer my best advice, and I welcome your feedback and suggestions for future editions.  I really hope you like it!  :-)

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“Cupcake Amnesty:” Childhood Obesity and the Political Divide

american cupcakeThis morning in Austin, our state’s newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is holding a press conference to announce his first official act in office.  But Miller won’t use the occasion to address Texas’s troubling water shortage, which he had promised to make his “top priority” if elected, nor will he discuss any other issue of pressing concern to the state’s farmers or economy.

Rather, Miller will kick off his four-year term as Agriculture Commissioner by “declaring amnesty for cupcakes across the state of Texas.”  According to Miller’s press release, “We want families, teachers and school districts in Texas to know the Texas Department of Agriculture has abolished all rules and guidelines that would stop a parent from bringing cupcakes to school.  This act is about providing local control to our communities.”

Whatever you think of Miller’s administrative priorities, there’s actually no legal need to “declare amnesty” for school cupcakes here in Texas.  A parent or grandparent already has the right to bring cupcakes (or any other food) to a school birthday party or classroom celebration, a right guaranteed by our state legislature with the 2005 passage of “Lauren’s Law,” better known as the “Safe Cupcake Amendment.”

So no cupcake-related “rules or guidelines” were in fact “abolished” by the Texas Department of Agriculture, which oversees our state’s child nutrition programs, but Miller likely cares little about the specifics.  His cupcake stunt is more likely a response to the new federal Smart Snacks rules, which set forth stringent nutritional standards for foods and beverages sold to children during the school day, apart from the school meal. Nothing in the Smart Snacks rules affects classroom or birthday treats (since they’re not offered for sale) but the rules did effectively put an end to junk food fundraising during school hours, a development which hasn’t been popular with some Texans.

Given that Miller was once named the “second most conservative” member of the Texas legislature – not an easy status to achieve in these parts — it’s not surprising that he wants to be the standard-bearer for local control against a meddling federal government’s anti-childhood obesity measures.  And Miller isn’t even the first conservative to raise aloft a classroom birthday treat to rail against governmental interference.  Sarah Palin made headlines back in 2010 when she brought 200 sugar cookies to a Pennsylvania fundraiser to protest that state’s proposed guidelines for classroom parties, which would encourage parents to send in healthy snacks like fruits or vegetables.  Palin tweeted that day: “2 PA school speech; I’ll intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate;Nanny state run amok!”

The irony, of course, is that the states most adversely affected by the obesity crisis (i.e., conservative Southern states) are often the least amenable to policies which might ameliorate that crisis.  This phenomenon is consistent with a 2011 Pew Research Center poll which found that 80% of liberal Democrats felt the government should play a “significant role” in fighting childhood obesity while only 37% of conservative Republicans and 33% of those aligned with the Tea Party agreed with that statement.  (Interestingly, the ethnic groups most affected by obesity – Hispanics and African Americans  – were far more likely than whites (89% and 74% versus 49%, respectively) to support governmental intervention.)

These differing political philosophies will matter greatly in the year ahead, when the Republican-controlled Congress will square off against the Obama White House over a likely effort to permanently weaken school food nutritional standards.  In leading a similar campaign during the 2015 appropriations process last year, Rep. Robert Adherholt (R-AL) predictably couched the rolling back of the standards as a matter of creating “flexibility” in onerous federal regulations and returning local control to school districts.  But let’s be blunt: many of the states most ardently in support of “local control” seem to be doing the least effective job in combatting childhood obesity, if statistics are any guide.

For example, the conservative National Review gleefully declared Miller’s cupcake amnesty announcement to be “further proof that Texas is the greatest state in the union.”  No good Texan would never argue with his or her state’s greatness, but we do also hold the distinction of ranking fifth in the union for obesity among high school students, and thirteenth in the union for our climbing diabetes rate, which is predicted to reach almost three million cases by 2030.  Over 36% of our kids aged 10-17 are overweight or obese, and that number is likely to grow as they age:  in 2009, almost 67% of Texas adults were either overweight or obese, a figure which could reach an astonishing 75% by the year 2040, if present rates persist.

Against that backdrop, let’s examine those unnecessarily “pardoned” birthday cupcakes a little more closely.  In my children’s crowded Texas public elementary school classrooms (some of which had up to 27 kids), students’ birthdays could be celebrated well over 20 times a year.  Putting aside all the other sugary treats kids receive at school from teacher rewards or classroom parties, not to mention illegal junk food fundraising, that’s 6,000 extra calories per child per year (20 x 300 calories). Multiply that figure by six years of elementary school and, assuming a pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, a child in Texas public school could gain over 10 extra pounds from birthday cupcakes alone.

The debate over the proper role of government will rage eternally, of course.  But when it relates to child nutrition, the argument is not just theoretical.  Sid Miller can polish his conservative bona fides by granting “amnesty” to cupcakes, but wrongheaded policies relating to school meal standards and classroom junk food adversely affect the health of real children every day.  When, down the road, those policies manifest themselves in the form of obesity-related diseases and shorter lifespans for those children, I won’t be as generous as Mr. Miller in handing out pardons.

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I’m Getting *Really* Sick of Hearing About Those Hard-Boiled Eggs

Earlier this month, a school district in suburban Chicago made news when it announced its plan to opt out of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), forgoing $900,000 a year in federal funds.

Hard Boiled eggsDavid Schuler, superintendent of Township High School District 214, made a sympathetic case for the district’s decision, telling public radio’s Here and Now that the requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act were just too restrictive to allow the district to serve its students the healthy food they needed.  In explaining “why the federal program doesn’t work for his students,” he said:

It really comes down to the amount. You know, like, a hard-boiled egg can no longer be served because it’s too high in fat. Skim milk over 12 ounces can’t be served. The portion sizes are much smaller than in the past. So for high school athletes who are looking to eat and be full, it’s just not working for us.

As you might imagine, this Illinois district quickly became the poster child of those on the political right who are currently fighting hard to roll back the HHFKA’s nutritional improvements.  For example, in her latest angry screed against Obama-backed school food reform (and she’s written others), conservative pundit Michelle Malkin applauded District 214 for voting itself out of “the unsavory one-size fits all mandate:”

Last week, the state’s second largest school district decided to quit the national school lunch program altogether. Officials pointed out that absurd federal guidelines prevented them from offering hard-boiled eggs, hummus, pretzels, some brands of yogurt, and nonfat milk in containers larger than 12 ounces.

Similarly, on CNN Out Front last night, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), author of a bill which would allow some districts to opt out of the HHFKA, again invoked the sad specter of District 214, a district just trying to offer its kids more wholesome hard-boiled eggs and skim milk but stymied by Big Government regulations.  At the 1:20 mark he says:

Well, the problem is, these rules are so onerous, they really go beyond reason.  I was just reading an article just a couple of weeks ago about a school in Illinois [sic] has decided to get completely out of the program because a boiled egg does not meet the standards that are coming out of USDA, and anything over twelve ounces of skim milk has too much fat in it for these standards.

So we’re not talking about, you know, feeding hamburgers and hot dogs and pizza everyday to kids.  The nutrition workers in these lunch rooms, they want to provide healthy foods for their kids.  They’re wanting to do the right thing. And it’s not like they’re trying to make these kids obese.

But are we sure about that last bit?

Here’s what no one on the right wants to tell you about District 214.  According to the Chicago Tribunethe district is not opting out of the NSLP to give kids more healthy foods like hard-boiled eggs and skim milk, but to preserve the

$2.2 million in annual food service revenue that comes from the a la carte menu, which sells things like pizza, fries and Subway sandwiches. The district also said it gets $543,000 in revenue from vending machines.

In other words, if District 214 stays in the NSLP, starting this July it will have to implement the new Smart Snacks in Schools rules — rules which would bring to a screeching halt its lucrative business of selling fries, pizza and other junk food to its school children.

In a way, though, you have to admire District 214 for being so open about its motivations with the Chicago Tribune reporter:

The district said it is “relatively certain” that Smart Snacks will cause it to lose more than the subsidy is worth because it only gets reimbursed for meals served.

“We could lose (money) even if we stay in if students don’t purchase the food because they don’t like it,” said Superintendent David Schuler.

The district reassured the Chicago Tribune that its non-NSLP menu “will still be healthy,” but given this district’s past, enthusiastic reliance on junk food sales to make millions at the expense of its student health, you have to wonder if it will make good on that promise.  And without the oversight of the NSLP, who will be looking out for the reported 2,800 students in District 214 who qualify for free lunch and are therefore completely dependent upon the district for daily nutrition?

Right wingers like Malkin like to equate the NSLP with Nanny State overreach, but when student health is directly pitted against the financial interests of a school district, isn’t that precisely when we need a nanny  to look out for the welfare of kids?

Whatever you think about District 214’s opting out of the NSLP, though, let’s be clear about one thing:  this isn’t about hard-boiled eggs.

[Ed. Update 5/30/14:  I hadn’t thought to do so when I posted this, but today I visited District 214’s food services website.  Take a look.]

district 214 menu

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Schools Interfere With Home-Packed Lunches and My (Surprising?) Reaction

Who's poking around in your child's lunch bag?
Who’s poking around in your child’s lunch bag?

A few weeks ago, the Internet was buzzing over news reports that an elementary school in Richmond, VA — allegedly in accordance with federal law — is requiring parents to obtain a doctor’s note if they want to send a home-packed lunch to school with their child.   Then, this week, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff reported on his Weighty Matters blog that a Canadian mother was fined $10 under Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations for failing to include a grain product in her child’s home-packed lunch of  “leftover homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and some milk.”  (The child was supplied with less-than-nutritious Ritz crackers by the school.)  Both of these stories have gone viral, if my own Facebook feed is any measure.

These two incidents were reminiscent of other, similar stories I’ve reported on in the past:  in 2011, a Chicago school principal at the Little Village Academy placed an outright ban on home-packed lunches, setting off a barrage of criticism, and in 2012 there were widespread reports that a North Carolina “state inspector” had forced a child to give up her packed lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice because the meal did not meet USDA guidelines; instead the child was forced to take the school lunch of chicken nuggets.

Let me say up front that if my own kids’ home-packed lunches were inspected by a school or government official, I’d be quite ticked off.  (Not to mention, on some very rushed mornings in the TLT house, deeply, deeply embarrassed.)  But at the same time, these sorts of incidents just don’t fill me with the horror or outrage that so many have expressed in the blogosphere.  Here’s why.

First, as I’ve learned from experience, the media can often get their facts wrong in covering these instantly-sensational news stories.  For example, if you’d read conservative pundit Michelle Malkin’s account of the Little Village Academy incident, you could easily have believed that the packed-lunch ban extended throughout the city of Chicago  — and you certainly would never have known that the Little Village principal reportedly retracted her controversial edict just one week later.

Similarly, as I shared with you in 2012, an intrepid blogger dug deeper into the alleged “forced chicken nugget swap” and found credible evidence that the story was seriously misreported.  He concluded that:

someone at the school, whether a teacher, cafeteria worker, or a state program advisor (it’s still unclear which, though the first two seem much more likely if you’ve ever seen lunch time at a day care center) observed that the child lacked milk and suggested she go through the line to get some if she wanted it.  The child then mistakenly believed that going through the line meant she had to get an entirely new lunch.

And the most recent “doctor’s note” incident mentioned above?  According to contributors to the Skeptics Stack Exchange, one of whom actually corresponded with Virginia state officials, there is no “federal law” (as had been reported in the media) which mandates this practice.  Rather, the individual investigating the incident concluded:

I think it’s very safe to say this is a (misinterpreted) rule of the facility and staff of this Head Start preschool, rather than a broad requirement/law by the federal government as many of these blogs are implying.

But even when the facts are correctly stated, as I’m assuming was the case with the Manitoba Ritz crackers (for which Dr. Freedhoff actually posts a screen shot of the school’s note to the parent), it’s important to reflect for a moment on why schools might be peering into kids’ lunch boxes.

Underlying all of these incidents — no matter how misguided the particular actions of school personnel —  is a laudable desire to ensure that kids, especially economically vulnerable kids, get a decent meal at school.  In the case of the chicken nuggets, for example, the school in question specifically served at-risk pre-school students and was required to ensure that meals meet federal nutrition guidelines by supplementing home-packed meals that were nutritionally deficient.  In the case of Chicago’s Little Village Academy, a full 99% of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunches and, according to a Chicago Tribune report at the time, the principal said “she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring ‘bottles of soda and flaming hot chips’ on field trips for their lunch.”

Moreover, as Dr. Joyce Slater, a guest blogger on Weighty Matters, later pointed out with respect to the Ritz crackers incident, daycare workers are often greatly overburdened and undereducated when it comes to making the decisions required of them under Manitoba’s well-meaning nutrition policies.  The same could likely be said of the Head Start and pre-school teachers in the doctor’s note and nuggets stories as well, with respect to our own state and federal nutrition guidelines for those programs.

But what really upsets me when these stories go viral is how they’re gleefully pounced upon by right wing pundits —  not just as proof of Nanny State over-reach (which arguably they are), but as justification for undermining all federal child nutrition programs.

For example, Michele Malkin, writing for the National Review Online, worked the Little Village Academy story into a larger, angry screed against the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHKA), the 2010 federal legislation which provided a sorely needed overhaul to school meals.  In the Obama administration’s support for that law, she saw a nefarious plot to increase donations from organized labor to Obama’s reelection campaign:

The unwritten mantra driving Mrs. Obama’s federal school-lunch meddling and expansion is: “Cede the children, feed the state.” And the biggest beneficiaries of her efforts over the past three years have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees International Union. . . .

Big Government programs “for the children” are never about the children. If they were, you wouldn’t see Chicago public-school officials banning students from bringing home-packed meals made by their own parents.

Rush Limbaugh similarly used the chicken nugget incident to take a swipe at the HHKA’s improved school meal standards by erroneously attributing the “inspection” to “federal agents,” and by linking the incident to the First Lady, one of the HHKA’s most vocal supporters:

Do you believe this? I do! The food Nazis — and, by the way, this is Michelle (My Belle)’s program: No Child’s Behind Left Alone. . . .  I’ll tell you what, this is all coming from Michelle Obama.

And the Virginia school’s doctor’s note requirement has also been erroneously attributed in some conservative quarters to the HHKA, which contains no such provision.

Let me state again that, like most of my readers, I find the notion of school officials rifling through my kids’ lunches abhorrent.  And I also recognize that you don’t have to be a political conservative to object to these incidents; they’ve also been used as fodder for arguing against GMOs (contained in those Ritz crackers) and against the inextricable links between agribusiness and the federal school meals program, among other issues often raised by the political left.

But to the degree these isolated cases of bureaucratic overreach cloud the bigger picture, all I ask is that we step back for a minute and remember some key facts.  Over 16 million American kids are presently food-insecure.  Over 31 million children rely on the National School Lunch program for needed nutrition, and most of them live sufficiently close to the poverty line that they qualify for free lunches or meals offered at a reduced prices.  These are not kids, by and large, who would otherwise come to school with a well-balanced, home-packed lunch.  So if federal nutrition programs are imperfectly administered, and even imperfectly conceived in many ways, they’re also critically important to kids in need.

A few screw-ups here and there seem like a small price to pay to keep millions of kids from going hungry.

[This post also appears on Civil Eats.]

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 7,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (and then adding it to your news feed or interest lists) to get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also join almost 4,000 TLT followers on Twitter, check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post. And be sure to check out my video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!”

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Food In the Classroom: Teachers Speak Out

The Manifesto! Click to enlarge it - copy and share it if you like.

Yesterday’s manifesto against food in the classroom, which I pounded out at my keyboard in a fit of complete frustration and anger, has clearly resonated with a lot of people.  With three exceptions (two of which I couldn’t print because they contained such foul language), comments posted here and on Twitter and Facebook have uniformly been in favor of getting food rewards and birthday treats out of our schools.

And many readers, like one named LA, wrote in to say, “Thank you for this. I thought I was one of the few parents who felt this way.”

Clearly not.

The other notable development is that I’m starting to hear from teachers.  Just as when I write about school food reform, I welcome comments and guest posts from school food service workers sharing their unique perspective, it’s been illuminating to hear from educators about this issue.  Here’s a sampling.

From Tina B:

I am a teacher, and while I admit I made the mistake of food rewards early in my career, I learned many years ago to stop the practice. I now have a treasure box filled with party favor trinkets items and a huge stash of stickers that I happily use instead. . . .

As for Halloween and Valentine parties, I allow sweets to be brought into the class. Candy treats are passed out at the end of the day (roughly the last 40 minutes or so) and I encourage the children to take most of their treats home. Because I teach in a poor district there usually isn’t that much to pass out anyway.

But the birthday celebrations are a completely different story!!!  . . . .

In recent years I have sent home letters to parents asking that birthdays be sweet free or to send in fruit or veggies, but since other teachers don’t have this class policy I really can’t enforce my requests. Parents of multi aged children (meaning kids in multiple grade levels and classrooms) can never remember which teacher has this policy, or just tune it out all together. Then there are the parents that have the attitude no one is going to tell me what to do when it comes to my kid. Parents will send in cupcakes for all, Capri Sun or the plastic bottles of colored who knows what, as well as bags of chips and bags of candy.

I have had parents go to the principal to complain about me because I absolutely refused a Costco sized sheet cake and two liters of Coke. The parent brought no plates or serving utensils for me, and I have learned from experience that to carve up a sheet cake into 28 peices and pour 28 cups of soda takes almost 45 minutes from start to finish and then the clean up process as well.

I physically cringe when I see all this junk arrive. First, the children see this bounty arrive and then proceed to ask about it all day long. “When are we going to eat cake?” becomes the mantra for the entire day. I’ll be in the middle of a math lessen and a child will raise their hand to ask “is it time for cake?”! Because I do not want to have 28 sugar crazed children in my room I save this stuff for literally the last 20 minutes of the day.

Another reason why I cringe when it arrives is because I myself have a sweet tooth and even when I stand there and tell myself that I will not eat that, I will not eat that, under no circumstances am i going to eat that…I almost always crack and eat the cake. :( I have learned for myself that the best way for me to eat healthy is the total removal of all temptation. Now I am a 40 year old woman and have a hard time refusing the cake, so really, what are the odds of a child saying no? We can teach our children to eat healthy so they have healthy bodies and minds, but cake is yummy, and temptation combined with seeing all the other kids eating will result in our kids cracking every time. . . .

From a reader who goes by “c:”

When teachers try to say no to parents with cupcakes, we get labeled as the mean teachers. It’s tough to stand up to parents on this issue and risk a grudge when we need those parents to work as partners with us to help their children succeed academically. Parents are often looking for something to dislike us for, and saying, “No, I won’t let you serve cupcakes to the class for your child’s birthday, ” is often very hard to say when you know you also need to say, “Mrs. Smith, I would like to have your child assessed for speech.” Just a different perspective to keep in mind.

c also added in another comment:

As a teacher who insists the food in my class is rarely present, healthy, and safe for everyone, I applaud this article. For every 1 parent who is sick of the unhealthy foods, there are 5 who complain when the teacher stops serving it. It’s amazing how many complaints I have fielded from parents who think it’s mean of me to have a party of fruits and veggies with no cookies, cupcakes, or other foods that will send my food allergic kids into anaphylaxis or diabetic kids into shock. Parents think kids NEED sugar to have a fun class party. I have had parents who, even after they have been told no, will still show up without permission with 30 cupcakes and plop them in my arms with a satisfied look on their face, thinking that now that the kids have seen them, I have to serve them. This debate has two sides to it – please remember that there are plenty of teachers who are really extremely tired of having 30 kids hopped up on sugar in their classrooms and parents demanding that it happen on a regular basis.

Parental push back, especially when it comes to birthday treats*, is a real issue.  Here in Texas, our legislature actually passed a “safe cupcake amendment” to protect parents’ rights to bring in sweets for their kids’ birthdays.  And I personally know one parent who was vilified at her children’s school when she dared question the birthday treat practice.  So my sympathy is with well-meaning teachers on the receiving end of some intense parental anger when they try to curb classroom sweets.  (By the way, for an interesting examination of why parents get so riled up over this issue, be sure to check out this post on Real Mom Nutrition (“For The Love of Cupcakes“) and the article she discusses there: “Food Nazis Invade First Grade.”)

But I want to end on a positive note.  Two days before I published my manifesto, a comment happened to come in on a much older Lunch Tray post (“Sarah Palin and Birthday Treats Redux“) about Sarah Palin’s 2010 publicity stunt of bringing sugar cookies to a Pennsylvania school to protest proposed “Nanny state” school nutrition guidelines.  That post turned into a distillation of my many arguments against in-class treats, and a reader named Annemarie, a teacher, had this to say:

Wow. so, I’m having a sort of mini food revolution myself, personally, and this blog comes at such a great time. I’m absolutely a foodie, and one of the hardest parts of trying to eat more healthily is fitting my foodie lifestyle into healthy eating. More importantly, I’m a mother now, to a beautiful almost-two year old, and eating right has suddenly become so much more important. People are encouraging my attempt at losing the ton of weight I want to lose, and it’s hard to explain to them that this isn’t about losing weight so much as its about changing my entire lifestyle when it comes to eating and feeding my family.

The reason I’m responding to this, though, is that i have a confession to make. I am a teacher of sixth graders, and I must say that in my seven years of teaching it never occurred to me to think past the reception of the treat. What I mean is I knew treats made my students happy. I bring treats in about five times a year, if that, although the clemtines I give them for PSSA testing some don’t consider a treat. We have a pizza party to celebrate reading Olympics, and every time we have a fundraising competition the winning team gets an ice cream party (that I have nothing to do with!). It never occurred to me the violation I was committing, and I truly mean that. My job is to educate, and yes, providing treats here and there is great. Bt reading these comments and this article has completely changed the way I’m viewing my treat-giving! It never occur to me that i Might have students who have parents desperately trying to save them by teaching them proper nutrition, and it never occurred to me that providing treats might interfere with that.

I’m a little confused by some comments – no one is entitled to cupcakes, and I think, honestly, the idea of getting creative with treats for the classroom and using non-food rewards is so important. I can’t wait to try and think of something clever for our next reward!

If that doesn’t make you feel hopeful . . . .


* A while back, I was stressing about celebrating my own child’s birthday in the classroom and TLT readers came up with many fantastic, food-free ideas:  “A Happy Ending to the Classroom Birthday Treat Dilemma.”

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 3,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (or follow on Twitter) and you’ll get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post.

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Wall Street Journal Plays Gotcha with Sarah Palin on Obesity Issue

Over the TLT winter break, the Wall Street Journal editorial page did a nice job of skewering Sarah Palin for her recent, well-publicized attacks on Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood obesity efforts, all in the name of “personal freedom.”

As I wrote here a few weeks ago, coming down on the First Lady for her concern over what is arguably our nation’s number one health crisis seemed

about as rational to me as attacking former First Lady Laura Bush for ‘meddling in my child’s education’ or Lady Bird Johnson for ‘thinking she can tell us what flowers to plant on our highways.’

Apparently the editorial board of the WSJ agrees, writing:

No one hates the nanny state more than we do, but Mrs. Obama isn’t exactly ordering up Lenin’s Young Pioneers. Adults do have an obligation to teach children how to live, and that includes adults who are role models by dint of their national prominence. JFK asked kids to do chinups for the Presidential Fitness Award, and Nancy Reagan asked them to ‘just say no’ to drugs.

The WSJ then played a nice little game of gotcha, unearthing this passage from none other than then-Alaska-governor Palin’s 2009 State of the State address:

Health-care reform on an individual basis is often just this simple: We could save a lot of money and a lot of grief by making smarter choices.  It starts by ending destructive habits and beginning healthy habits in eating and exercise.

I don’t know about you, but just reading that deeply offensive passage makes me fear for my personal freedoms.  To quote Ms. Palin (in response to similar, pro-health statements by Ms. Obama): “Just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.”


[You can read more at the Time magazine’s Swampland blog.  Thanks to San Francisco school food reformer Dana Woldow for the tip.]

Sarah Palin Decries Proposed School Nutrition Regulation as “Nanny State Run Amok”

Former Alaska governor and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin has criticized proposed school nutrition guidelines in Pennsylvania which would limit the sweets allowed for classroom and holiday parties at school, and which would encourage parents to serve more healthy snacks like fruits or vegetables.  The Pennsylvania State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed guidelines this spring.

Before attending a Bucks County, PA school fundraiser Tuesday, Ms. Palin tweeted, ““2 PA school speech; I’ll intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate;Nanny state run amok!”   She then brought 200 sugar cookies to event, and was quoted by ABC News as saying:

I had to shake it up a little bit because I heard there is a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether most schools condemn sweets, cakes, cookies, that type of thing.  I brought dozens and dozens of cookies to these students.

ABC further quoted Ms. Palin:

You shouldn’t been making these decisions about what you can eat at the school.  Should it be the government or should it be the parents?”

Of course, it’s the framing of that last question which is so specious, in that it seemingly pits governmental intrusion against personal freedom.  But that’s not what’s going on here. I personally have no interest in regulating what foods a parent can or cannot bring for his/her child’s own consumption at school.  That would, in my opinion, be a true example of a Nanny State.

What I do object to, however, is the lack of oversight regarding what foods other parents can bring for my child’s consumption.  As I argued in one of my first Lunch Tray posts (“The Birthday Cupcake Debate Heats Up“), when a child is at school, he or she is as captive to what goes on there as a person in an elevator is captive to second-hand smoke.  We don’t allow smoking in elevators, and we shouldn’t allow the serving of food to school children to which a parent might object on a variety of grounds — nutritional, religious, a concern about allergens, or for any other reason.

Moreover, with childhood obesity quickly becoming one of the biggest public health crises facing this country, Palin’s cookie stunt strikes me as somewhat tone deaf.   With one out of three children already overweight or obese, and with the potential health care costs of obesity currently estimated at $150 billion (and counting), is this really where she wants to make her point about “protecting our freedoms”?

[Thanks to reader Renee for the tip about this story.]

[Ed. Update:  This post led to a huge number of reader comments, which are addressed here.]