No Cupcake For You

Today on Serious Eats, Ed Levine mentions a piece in The New York Times about a crackdown on parents sending kids to school with cupcakes for birthday celebrations.Apparently, in an effort to stave off childhood obesity, cupcakes are now forbidden.

Folks in the comments section bring up some relevant issues, such as:

  • How can schools get away with selling/providing pizza and french fries in the cafeterias, yet ban occasional treats?
  • If you’re banning cupcakes, does that mean kids are going to stop selling candy bars or Girl Guide cookies as fundraisers?
  • Maybe sending kids to school with a healthy lunch as opposed to cash to spend at McDonald’s every day would mean the occasional cupcake would actually be okay.

The thing to consider is that in the original case, in a Texas suburb, every child was bringing cupcakes for the class on their own birthday. Over the course of the year, that’s a whole lotta cupcakes. It’s also creates a mini class-system within the school; kids whose families cannot afford to supply the class with treats, kids whose parents send store-bought cupcakes instead of homemade, or kids whose birthdays fall outside of the school year, are all kinda screwed in the cupcake wars.

One of the suggestions in the comments was to have one event a month to celebrate all the birthdays that have taken place. This is still excessive and still leaves out the summer-born kids. I can’t recall ever having treats in school to celebrate one person’s birthday. We had parties throughout the year based on seasonal events or holidays, and I can remember bringing in treats for Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day. In a multicultural school with children celebrating both typical Western holidays and things like Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Eid, etc, I would think there would be plenty of opportunities for treats that also encompassed a cultural learning experience. (Or that may just be me wishing someone had turned me on to rugelach and burfi at a younger age.)

I loves me some cupcakes, and plan to bake some for my own birthday (despite being well past the age where I get to take them to school), but I am sort of on the fence in terms of a full-on cupcake ban. I think that school is not the place to celebrate each child’s birthday with treats (so maybe it’s more that sense of entitlement I’m against), but that occasional cultural holidays or parties can and should include treats, especially traditional or festive foods.

Children obviously need to learn about and practice healthy eating habits, but they also need to learn about eating treats in moderation – which is impossible if we don’t allow them any treats at all.