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Banning baked goods in schools is getting out of hand

Kid making cupcakesWhen I was in kindergarten, we had an event every couple of weeks called “Zero the Hero.” I remember very little about the activity itself – although I know it involved numbers and “zero-like” round shapes in some way – but on “Zero the Hero” day one of the students was responsible for bringing in a snack for the class. Obviously, it was up to the parents to prepare said snack and drop it off at school in the morning. The teacher encouraged relatively healthy snacks, including fruit, cereal (e.g. cheerios), graham crackers and the like, and prefered that the items be small (possibly for more number/counting-related activities). If your turn at “Zero the Hero” day fell on or near your birthday, however, you could bring cupcakes or any other treat to share. These were obviously the most popular “Zero the Hero” days, although I know for a fact that all the students looked forward to them even when grapes and cheerios were on the menu.

The point of this reminiscence is that it is getting depressing to hear about how schools are banning every enjoyable snack that kids might want to eat. Vending machines loaded with candy bars and soda are one thing, but to ban treats of holiday candies (such as Peeps) and birthday cake? At a school in England last year, a child was sent out of the lunchroom because his father had packed one too many “junk” items in the child’s lunch and had exceeded the school’s recommended limit. This is a clear indicator that things are getting a little out of hand, as it means that some staff member was policing the home-brought lunch of every student to see that their parents had made good choices for them.

When I was in elementary school, my teachers taught about balance in diet and a little bit about nutrition. There was no lunch policing and no kids were ever sent out of the lunch area because their parents packed them an extra slice of cake.

Did the balanced diet sink in at that age? Does this prove that good decisions can be made without forcing them? I honestly don’t remember how I felt at the time, but the fact that kids were equally excited about grapes and cupcakes just might be an indicator that it did.

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  • Denise
    April 9, 2007

    I agree that some limitations and restrictions that are imposed are getting a little out of hand. One thing that you didn’t mention in your blog is the problem with allergies. More and more these days I hear about food allergies that people have, this is especially growing in kids. Both of my nephews are allergic to peanuts – and it’s not just the kind of allergy where you get an itch or a rash – it’s a serious life-threatening allergy. And one of my co-workers deals with the same thing. Sometimes if we have a lunch meeting and we order Thai food – just the fact that peanuts are in the air can affect her.

    So I think the thing we have to remember is to keep it both SAFE and fun for everyone. Those wonderful childhood memories go a long way.

  • Tom in Boston
    April 10, 2007

    OK, but have you seen the latest statistics regarding the dramatic increase in morbid obesity over even the last year or so? I think there’s reason for a bit of overkill in the schools at the moment.

  • Surviving
    April 11, 2007

    I can understand some of the reasons behind banning baked goods. However, it gets to be expensive for the parents. My oldest is in kindergarten this year. The students take turns bring in a treat everyday for everyone. It has to be store bought. The treat schedule is set up so that the kids with birthdays are responsible for treats on that day. As a SAHM it would be so much less expensive and easier for me to just make something. Buying cupcakes for a class can be pretty expensive.

  • miriam
    April 11, 2007

    As a dietician whose focus area is childhood nutrition, I can attest to the fact that this is what it has come to. Unfortunately, the state of overweight and obesity in the United States and most of the Western world has risen at such astronomical rates in the past 25 years that we professionals see no other alternative but to put restrictions on the snacks students bring to school. Mainly, this is because of the low rate of parental (and teacher) support of nutrition education programs. Perhaps if parents were more receptive to the nutrition messages being taught to them and their children, we would not see a need to confiscate lunch items.

  • jenni
    April 12, 2007

    I’m a teacher and now a mother of a severely food-allergic child whose peanut allergy is so bad that accidentally brushing his hand on a bin of peanuts at the supermarket caused hives, eye-swelling, and furious itching. As a teacher, I used to roll my eyes at parents who were only trying to keep their kids safe by insisting on providing alternative snacks for the days that other kids brought treats from home. Obviously, I’m a LOT more understanding now! Because he’s too young to know any better, and I don’t expect his teachers to keep an eagle eye on him every second, I feel a lot more comfortable that his school has implemented a no-nut policy, and even then, his teachers keep a stash of safe treats for him on such days.

  • Barb
    April 15, 2007

    I totally agree with you. If a kid is allergic, then the parents should make the teachers aware (just like they do with religious preferences, etc). Obesity has nothing to do with a few party treats at school (and don’t even get me started on their eliminating making Valentines, Christmas decorations, etc. It is so so sad.

    And I agree the whole ‘police’ issue is out of control. I heard you get fined if you BBQ in Belguim now, since it adds to global warming. Whatever.

    I used to have a roommate who grew up under a mom who thought baking was ‘too domestic’. So this girl never knew what it was like to lick the beaters, or spoon the pudding off the inside of the pan, or learn to use an electric mixer for a recipe that wasn’t out of a box. I thought it was so pathetic.

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