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Something so sad and silly

It was front page news in my local paper, The Herald Times, Bloomington, IN that our local school board has decided that parents should no longer bring in food to share on birthdays etc. that is homemade. The reasons given by the healthy foods coordinator of the Monroe county school stystem is that it is state law. Any food brought in to share must be store bought. That the school would never serve something homemade. Of course the obesity problem was raised and the guidelines suggest that parents concentrate on "healthy" snacks. So happy birthday, have a carrot. This does not mean that children cannot bring their own lunches. But lovingly prepared birthday cupakes from mom is now a no no. Mass produced foods with HFCs and partially hydrogenated fat is okay though! Really sad.

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  1. Yeah it really is. In Toronto, parents are encouraged to buy a book to donate to the class. We all know how much kids love getting books instead of cupcakes for birthdays!

    1 Reply
    1. re: beany

      We would always take store bought chocolte and hand one out to each of the children in our class.


    2. Our school did away with bringing in home made foods about 5 years ago when the regime came in. The new principal said that if anyone got sick...yada yada yada.

      At first, I was really angry, because there went bake sales, bringing in goodies for birthdays, etc. Then, it occurred to me that I had always assumed everyone cooked in as clean as a kitchen as mine...and well...what if they didn't? Yuck! Needless to say, it didn't take long to get over it. lol To be honest too...it got to the point where we'd have to worry about too many kids having issues with too many foods.

      In some of my kids' classes, over the years, some of us old timer moms did get around it. We kept bakery boxes on hand (those big pink ones) and if we were on good terms with the teacher, well, sometimes we bent the 'rules' in our kids' classes. ;-)

      1. Silliness indeed.

        The biggest money maker at the school carnival was the cake walk. People made dozens of cakes and donated them. People would pick out all sorts of wonderful cakes if they won and go home with their prize.

        Yet, somehow, we managed to not decimate the population of Phoenix metro through tainted cakes.

        Honestly, has there really been a mass poisoning at a school via cupcakes?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Seth Chadwick


          This is just another in a long line of things that have been implemented to keep kids safe.
          My god, how did I ever survive being a kid. Can you imagine both me and my two sisters lived through our childhoods. What with tainted cupcakes, kids bringing PB&J sandwiches, playing dodge ball, monkey in the middle......

          LORD, IT'S A MIRACLE!!


        2. I have a friend whose son has a severe allergic reaction to any type of nuts. Unfortunately, he has to stay away from not only any type nut, but also from any types of foods that may have been processed in a facility that also processes nuts. His allergy is considered life threatening. This is very difficult for them as a family, and I know my friend has to carefully read all labels before buying anything. She told me that her son's school had to pass a rule prohibiting anyone from bringing in homemade snacks and such for parties, etc. This was done not only to prevent him from going into shock medically, but also to protect his feelings so he doesn't feel left out when everyone else is eating a cupcake while he can't.

          4 Replies
          1. re: sandrina

            That is a terrible shame. Severe nut allergies are fairly common and I think that in this day and age many of us know children who are affected. The idea that an entire school would forego treats based on the assumptio that this child can't handle one of life's little disappointments is precisely what has gone wrong in childrearing today. My son began preschool when he was three years old. At each party a peer of his simply explained that he didn't eat treats outside of his house because of his allergy. He was raised to understand this is something that a person takes in stride.

            If we continue to teach kids that they will fall apart if they loose a soccer game or become unhinged if they have to say 'no thank you' to birthday treats we are going to have an insurmountable problem on our hands.

            That said, from a health standpoint, lots of people buy birthday treats at their grocery store bakery. The fat, sugar and chemical content is astronomical and it trains children's palates to accept and expect the super-sweet. I would prefer that if homemade treats are not allowed, no treats are permitted.

            1. re: Kater

              I couldn't agree more. And when it's the kid with the allergy's turn to have a birthday, his mom can make something appropriate for him.

              Severe nut allergies are indeed terrifying, but I do wonder (and I really don't mean to offend anyone here) if occasionally parents over-react. For instance, I know a woman whose child had a very mild (splotching) reaction to peanuts. Her allergist (from a very prominent university) told her not to worry about it, that he would be fine. She, in turn, sought out an allergist who would credit their anxiety and she now has epi pens and whatnot. It seems unfair to saddle a kid with all the social challenges of having a severe allergy when a good doctor has said he's OK. What do others with more knowledge on this subject think? Are we sometimes paranoid about allergies?

              1. re: Procrastibaker

                Nut allergies seem to kill more people than any other (except, perhaps, bee stings). I think you must treat any sign of a nut allergy very seriously. That said, back in the day ('60's) I'd never heard of this. Why are these allergies so prevalent now?

                1. re: pikawicca

                  Allergies are an ideal playground for people and parents who tend to seek medical attention or use medical diagnoses to ease anxieties. People frequently self-diagnose allergies and if you pay careful attention you'll often find evidence that no allergy exists. Soy allergy is one of the funniest because 'sufferers' almost never have any idea which common products contain soy and will often be stuffing their faces with one of them while they tell you about their allergy!

                  Peanut and tree nut allergies can be severe and get considerable press. And some foods like shellfish and nuts are common allergy triggers, though no one ever seems to have the common non-life threatening version of these allergies.

                  Interestingly allergies tend to 'run in familes' though no genetic reason is in evidence. In my completely non-scientifiic opinion, that's because some families are 'into' allergies, seeking medical attention for every sniffle, demanding a diagnosis when there is no actual cause for a symptom, and fixating on children's basic safety needs rather than meeting them and moving on to higher order goals.

                  As far as the prevalence of these allergies, some of the problem is perception vs. reality. Only 8% of children in the US are affected by food allergies. Six foods, milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, and tree nuts, are responsible for the vast majority of those allergies. Among people affected by nut allergies only 3.33% have anaphylactic reactions (that the sufffocation/death without medical rescue one!).

                  So even if, in the absence of better data, we assume that a full 50% of the allergic population suffers from a peanut allergy rather than one of the other six, we're talking about 3.3% of 4% of children here!

                  I am NOT suggesting that as parents caring for others' children we should ever disregard these allergies real or supposed. But I do think that this is a particularly unfortunate fad.

          2. The world is completely upside-down in every way--just one more evidence.

            1. For many years, the local middle school cafeteria has had a "share table" - if you can't stand something on your tray (banana, snack cake, whatever) you can pit it on the share table so someone who likes it (or can't afford it) can eat it. No more - what's uneaten on your tray has to go in the trash.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wayne keyser

                At my daughter's school, they let you take only what you want (will eat), so nothing goes to waste.

              2. Our school district has recently implemented this "rule," too with claims that our Governator passed a law to help combat obesity. As another poster said, "Happy Birthday. Have a carrot and nothing else."

                1. I don't think it's a poisoning issue, but rather, an accountability one. If Whole Foods (for example) sells a bad cake and people get sick, then Whole Foods are in the best position to bear the cost of putting things right. If Granny Alice, who bakes a cake for little Timmy's class, wants the accompanying liability, well, then let her have it. I suspect the school district has made a public policy decision against that though. Can't say I blame them.


                  1. We have had that law here for several years as well. When I was working in the school system, it really seemed like such a shame for the kids not to have special homemade treats. Many children do have food allergies or are unable to have treats due to medication or special conditions. That being said, I still felt that children who were unable to have certain treats, could be given something they could have-this not only taught them about their special needs but the other children as well. We are sooo careful about everything these days, I sometimes wonder how we or our children survived back in the day!

                    1. I have two kids-- first and second grade-- and we have the same rule but more-- no food to share at all. No store bought, no homemade, no nothing. I used to get mad, but now I try to go along and make the best of it. My son turns 6 this week. We made little "treat cups" for him to bring to school. Each one contains stickers, glue, markers, tape, etc. tied up with cello wrap and a pretty ribbon.
                      On the one hand, I am sad not to share my pretty cupcakes. On the other had, I feel so bad for parents of allergy kids-- I guess it does make sense.

                      1. assuming 30 kids per classroom, with 9-10 school months, it stands to (my) reason that a given classroom would be eating sugary baked treats at least twice a month. (It sounds from the responses that this occurs much more frequently nowdays than in the 50's when these parties were the exception rather than the rule).

                        Call me a humbug; personally I see no need for the school-time birthday parties, treat- or school supplies-themed. Surely that's what family parties are for? (and mine are not religious reasons)It seems the time and money spent on these would be better given to a special school project. I like the book idea!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: toodie jane

                          In my elementary school, there was one day a month for celebration of all birthdays that month. The big celebration was the last month (May) because they celebrated all of the birthday that occurred over the summer. Parents brought in treats and it was a class party for all of an hour or so one day a month.

                          That was never a strain on the teachers to work that hour a month into their lesson plans and schedules.

                          1. re: Seth Chadwick

                            That how they do it at my son's school. The birthday kids wear a little crown--I think it's a nice rite of passage. His teachers actually request that parents (and kids) make an effort to make the cake or treat... they have a very DIY attitude about nearly everything, because it's empowering for the kids to see that good things don't have to come from a store. Then again, people here (Spain) don't worry much about frivolous lawsuits.

                          2. re: toodie jane

                            At my youngest's school last year, the treats were given at recess or as they left for the day for every grade so no time was designated or "wasted."

                            1. re: toodie jane

                              As a pre-school teacher in a private shool, I completely agree with toodie jane. At our school the only limit to school-time birthday parties is no gifts. I end up losing quite a bit of instruction time each month serving treats, visiting with moms, cleaning up the mess (those big, beautiful cupcakes are MESSY in little hands), and throwing away a lot of uneaten food. Over the years the parents seem to have entered some sort of competition to "out do" each other. The birthday celebration does not end with cupcakes and kool-aide. Parents bring finger sandwiches, chips, dip, fruit ka-bobs, hotdogs, hamburgers, ice cream, punch, colas, etc. It is completely out of hand. We will have a new headmaster for the next school year. I do hope that he / she will finally have the guts to take a stand on this issue.

                              1. re: Sister Sue

                                Why can't you, the teacher, limit this out-of-hand competition? It's your classroom, your rules.

                                1. re: The Ranger

                                  I'm torn on the general issue of parties vs. no parties. But in response to your suggestion, it would not be wise and is likely not permitted for an individual teacher to make a rule that restricts a parental privledge particularly a long running one. As a parent I completely agree that parties take up too much classtime and that a time limit is necessary. When my son attended preschool, parties took place during lunchtime and it was traditional for the birthday child to bring lunch for the class - we all loved it because it was day off from packing lunch. Cake or cupcakes were also part of the celebration. We also donated a book to the library and would read it to the class while they ate their lunch. I think it was a good arrangement and it fit into time that was normally alloted for lunch and free reading so it did not cut into academic time. Of course, this was a full day program; in a half day program birthday celebrations are not appropriate in my opinion.

                                  That said, I personally wouldn't mind if parties were eliminated, particularly in elementary schools. Or at least they should be eliminated after first grade. I've learned that parents are still doing school parties for kids when they're in fifth grade, that seems way too old.

                                  1. re: The Ranger

                                    I wish it were that easy. This school has been around for many years and the parties have always been allowed. Of course, 15 or 20 years ago the excessive food and the competitiveness weren't problems. I cannot stop it as an individual teacher, even in my class. It will have to come from the school administration when we get someone that recognizes what is going on. I have tried very hard to make suggestions for more healthy and less showy treats to no avail.

                                    By the way, this is a half day program.

                              2. I don't think that parties need to be banned, either, but limiting them both in scope and time are within the teachers' domain. Teachers need to be able to control their individual classroom, and sometimes that extends to politely saying "no" to parents.

                                All three of my daughters attended preschool. The teacher (and later teachers) made the classroom a learning environment that was open, fun, and exciting for the kids but there was no doubt who was in charge. Parties were scheduled for the end of each session (there were morning and afternoon sessions), where the kids were taken out to the "big kids'" lunch area and they got homemade snacks (usually some type of muffin -- blueberry was quite popular but there were also boysenberry and blackberry [ah the stains across white T-shirts]. For some reason there were very few cupcakes or store-bought items; go figure.)

                                It wasn't until they reached first grade where the teachers allowed parties at any time of the day. I never quite understood this because if you give a party first thing in the morning, you've lost the kids for the rest of the day. If you have a party in between recess and lunch, you tank that time, and the same goes for having one right after lunch. (shrug) Last year, their elementary implemented a rule that all parties were to be given during the last 20 minutes of the school day. That worked for me and mine. I'm happy to report that we never had dualling parties (parents), too.

                                1. In Massachusetts, the MCAS, or state-mandated testing, starts in 3rd grade. There is way too much pressure on kids to perform academicallly. Gym is once a week. Recess is cut to 15 minutes twice a day.

                                  Let the kids have some fun and relax. A brief recognition of the birthday child and a special treat breaks up the day and makes the kids happy. Let's remember how much we looked forward to something special in the school day.

                                  1. During the grade school period (and I did miss the asking as he got older) food safety was one issue, religion was another. I clearly remember children who were not permitted to partake in Halloween parties, no games, no food- but were still brought to school that day to learn. I always felt a bit sad for those kids but equally respectful to fellow parents.

                                    My job places me in schools throughout the year and there doesn't appear to be a one rule fits all on the subject of parties, cupcakes, bake sales, PTA events of staff celebrations regarding health & food safety...but I think we all miss the simpler times :)

                                    1. It may seem silly, but it most likely stems from the sue everyone culture that runs like wildfire throughout the USA. Let's say some kid gets really sick from food brought from home. And the parents are not friends with each other. My guess is the majority of parents would at minimum consider a law suit. And the lawyer would quickly tell them to go after the city and school system because they have more financial resources at risk. And in the end it would be your tax dollars paying for the lawyers fees and any eventual settlement. The people running city governments unfortunately have a responsibility to plan for such situation, whether they are silly or not, because they are real threats.

                                      Does it suck? Yes. But is it the right decision by city official? Yes, unfortunately it is.

                                      The simple way around it is to invite the class to your house or a local playground for a quick celebration.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: mdibiaso

                                        Wow. I didn't even think about it until you just said it. Instead of shoving the responsibility of holding a party onto the teacher's lap, how about parents throw birthday parties on their own time? The kids can play for the whole day, the parents can get to know each other. It's all so...civilized!

                                        1. re: mdibiaso

                                          Except that to stop people from sueing everyone in sight, you'd have to stop the practice of parties all together. Store bought would be even better. The store is more likely to have money than a parent.


                                        2. I think the discussion of the "sue culture running like wildfire throughout the USA" is jumping the gun a bit - as is the speculative statement that "the majority of parents would at a minimum consider a lawsuit, and the lawyer would tell them to sue the school and city."

                                          There are a lot of hurdles to suing government entities, and there would need to be a lot more involved than a bad cupcake to rise to the level of a lawsuit. I can't imagine that is what they are worried about - but if they are, then it is undoubtedly because insurance companies are telling them they should be. It's insurance money that pays to settle lawsuits more than tax dollars

                                          When I was a kid, I don't remember any big deal being made of birthdays - but occasionally we had holiday celebrations. I suppose those are completely out now that we have religious issues, etc. I suppose I am in for a rude awakening if I ever have kids and send them off to school - as far as how much things have changed!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Alice Q

                                            The changes that can occur within four years of one child attending and the the other can cause a rude shock. It's just another one of those things that They forgot to put in the manuals.

                                            I learned that some teachers are more gung-ho about implementing the new store-bought-only-must-celebrate-once rule than others. A few teachers are still allowing those students with food-issues to bring homemade foods. The blueberry and blackberry pastry I tried yesterday was delicious... I'm not sure what the parents used as a binder because the girl has dairy issues.

                                            1. re: Alice Q

                                              Alice Q said "It's insurance money that pays to settle lawsuits more than tax dollars."

                                              Yes, but it's our tax dollars that are paying the annual rates & fees for the astronomically high insurance coverage, so ultimately, it's still coming out of our pockets, isn't it?

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                I was JUST gonna say that, but you beat me to it.


                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  My comment was not well worded. The money definitely comes out of your pockets, but where it goes is to insurance companies who fearmonger in order to justify raising rates. They start imposing restrictions on policyholders and raising rates, saying they have to because of lawsuits. It's to their benefit to tell policy holders that they are more likely to get sued by greedy attorneys, so they (greedy insurance companies) can justify taking more of their money!

                                                  As long as insurance is a for-profit business, it will be in their best interest to propagate these rumors. Meanwhile, attorneys can only take cases they can win, where liability and damages exist - contrary to popular belief which seems to be that attorneys like to pursue frivolous cases with no merit (believe me - they don't.)

                                                  Actually - I would guess that the main reason they have banned this practice is due to allergies - particularly nut allergies. Some kids can have extremely severe reactions, and they are unpredictable. I don't see how store-bought products really solve this problem though.

                                              2. "My comment was not well worded. The money definitely comes out of your pockets, but where it goes is to insurance companies who fearmonger in order to justify raising rates. They start imposing restrictions on policyholders and raising rates, saying they have to because of lawsuits. It's to their benefit to tell policy holders that they are more likely to get sued by greedy attorneys, so they (greedy insurance companies) can justify taking more of their money!

                                                As long as insurance is a for-profit business, it will be in their best interest to propagate these rumors. Meanwhile, attorneys can only take cases they can win, where liability and damages exist - contrary to popular belief which seems to be that attorneys like to pursue frivolous cases with no merit (believe me - they don't.) "

                                                *What the heck - That is SO off the wall and off the mark. Please don't disparage a whole industry of business without knowing the facts. The insurance world is not out there to gouge their clients. That is silly and irresponsible.

                                                1. I cannot believe how many of you think that a child's life should be endangered so that other children can have access to whatever treats you think they can't live without. Food allergies, especially nut allergies, are potentially FATAL. Do you really want to second guess the parents who are trying to protect their children? I think what is "sad and silly" is that so many people don't seem at all educated about food allergies - do some research before you rail against the policies designed to protect children. Come one, we are talking about the right to have favorite treats vs. the right to live to adulthood. There's really no comparison.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Topaz

                                                    Did you read the original post?
                                                    It talks about a school banning homemade treats, and only allowing store bought treats. Has nothing to do with food allergies.

                                                    I don't believe anyone here was advocating feeding a child with nut allergies something with nuts in it. Instead, they were saying that the rest of the children shouldn't have to suffer because of one child's allergy. That child could have something else, and at the same time, be educated about their food allergies and foods to avoid. The child has to learn on his own what not to put in his mouth, and also is going to have to learn disappointment about not being able to have things that other kids have.

                                                    1. re: QueenB

                                                      Yes, I read the original post - I was responding to the posts from parents who said their child shouldn't have to be deprived of a particular food because of another child's allergies. Depending on the age of the child, I think it is risky to assume that children can police themselves regarding food allergies and since the consequences can be FATAL, I think the policies should err on the side of caution. It is extraordinaily unempathic to say "the child has to learn on his own what not to put in his mouth" if you are talking about very young children who could DIE from a single mistake.

                                                      1. re: QueenB

                                                        But not true queenb, allowing store bought treats (and not homemade) has everything to do with allergies. My grandaughter's daycare only allows storebought and needs to know which store because they know which stores/bakery's in the area have for ingredients because of the allergies in her classroom. Once I told them that I bought the cupcakes from store xyz, she knew whether all kids could enjoy or not because she knew how it was made. Their nurse stays in close contact with the local stores/bakeries because of these kid's allergies.

                                                        1. re: lexpatti

                                                          I think we should also point out that a child doesn't have to eat something to have a severe allergic reaction. For example, some nut allergies are so serious that a child can go into anaphylactic shock just from airborne particles from his classmate's food. It's better to just not have that food in a classroom.

                                                          1. re: lexpatti

                                                            Ditto, Lex.

                                                            One of the places we looked at for schools for our daughter not only prohibited homemade foods (they suggest homemade non-food goodie bags instead), they had a list of acceptable brands/local bakeries.

                                                            The in loco parentis position of the public schools puts them in a very awkward place when it comes to the matter of food allergies -- they have as strict a mandate as parents do to protect the allergic children, while having far more children in a far more fluid setting then any family does. Occasionally the safety of the few does end up interfering with the pleasure of the many. Frequently, it's just easier/more economical/more practical to ban all of a kind of food, or kind of occurance of food, then to try and exercise the strictness of oversight necessary to allow it in a limited way.

                                                            1. re: AnnaEA

                                                              Regarding allergies --- where do schools place these kids during lunch? I'm assuming many bring lunches and snacks from home. Plus you wouldnt be able to monitor the food at the cafeteria (if available) and if one crumb can cause a severe reaction ....
                                                              It must be stressful to be a parent of an allergic child.

                                                          2. re: QueenB

                                                            Agreed, QueenB. We have a family member with celiac and she learned from a very young age to say, "No, I can't eat that. It has gluten." In addition, she is kosher and vegetarian. Talk about having to watch what you eat. Granted, she will not die from eating gluten but a person with celiac cannot digest gluten so what cannot go down must come up again. Very unpleasant all around.

                                                            My point, though, is that it is the responsibility of sufferer to take control of their own health. Our cousin is not deprived. Her parents provide her with acceptable treat choices whenever necessary. And while it can be hard for a child to see other people having things they can't, this is an unfortunate part of their lives that they will have to learn to live with. They tend to learn really fast that getting sick is not worth eating that forbidden item. Kids ain't dum.

                                                        2. When I was in grade school in the 70's, we rarely had birthday parties at school. In fact, I remember none. What I do remember is parties at other kids houses where we'd run around and play and eventually get cake and ice cream. I cannot imagine how chaotic it would have been to have moms bring in treats every time it was someone's birthday. Even once a month seems like a lot. Why not let the kids wear a paper crown on their birthday but save the celebration for home? Especially in this day and age when so many moms cannot take time off work to hand out or even make cupcakes.

                                                          I have nieces and nephews and they eat way too many sweets. They expect dessert every night after dinner, and love candy. This is not how I was raised, and it is really upsetting. How is a birthday cake supposed to be special when you have that stuff all the time?

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                                            I like Mojoeater's point. And i say this as someone who loves treats and cupcakes and all that great stuff. I like that a child's birthday is acknowleged in school, but do you really need to bother with the extra cakes? A card, a round of "Happy Birthday" to let the kid know it is a special occasion, and let the parents treat the kid at home. No extra calories, no headache for the parent to make treats for a classroom of children, no cleanup and lost classroom time for the teacher, no worry about nut allergies or religious issues. And no kid left out if they have a parent who doesn't bake or buy as well as the other parents. I have this feeling that kids have a lot of access to treats these days, and we don't have to worry about a deficiency of treats. I'd be more worried about a deficiency of breakfast, fruits and vegetables, etc.

                                                            Re the point about obesity: I was horrified to learn that there is a place where gym is down to 1 day a week. I am not a hyper-athlete. I have a weight problem, and I love to overeat, and I love rich food. The only thing that keeps me on this side of healthy is exercise. I hated gym as a child, because I was uncoordinated, and i always got chosen last for teams. But I was forced to go to gym very regularly. Thank goodness! Now I am not intimidated by sports or exercise, I tryto keep active, and it helps my physical well-being.I'm going to eat that piece of fois gras anyway, but if I've biked for 2 hours that day, it can only help in the long run. If our kids don't get regular exercise and don't develop a habit of exercise, why are we so surprised when there is an obesity problem? Get rid of the half day birthday party, put gym back into school. Exercise helps you focus more on schoolwork, cupcakes do not (Although I certainly wish they did, I'd be Einstein by now!!!)

                                                            BTW what a very interesting thread! I love this website...

                                                            1. re: moh

                                                              Very interested and I couldn't agree more with Mojo & moh! School time is precious, family time is precious. Keep the two experiences wonderful by keeping them separate!

                                                            2. re: mojoeater

                                                              I was going to reply with the sad tale of how I never got to have a party in class because my birthday was at the very beginning of the school year (often the first day, which was horrible!) and things were too unorganized to bother having a party. Then I noticed that the original post was - coincidentally - on my birthday! So happy birthday to me, and boy have I always envied those kids who got cupcakes in class. :-)