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Should Birthday Treats at School Be Banned?

In an effort to help kids become healthier, schools are starting to look at how many sugary snacks students are getting during the school day, including birthday cupcakes.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting topics.

This week’s Moms Talk question relates to birthday treats at school:

in Emmaus is in the middle of a . As part of the effort, the school has forbidden “traditional” birthday treats such as cupcakes, for the month of March. The school is instead encouraging parents to substitute “healthy” food treats, such as yogurt-covered raisins, or even send in non-food items like stickers or erasers to mark the special occasion. While Lincoln’s ban on sweet birthday treats is currently only a month long, schools across the country have eliminated birthday treats for a variety of reasons. We want to know what you think:

Should schools ban birthday treats?

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing.
  • Jennifer Willenbrock of Nazareth is mom to two beautiful daughters, ages 5 and 6 weeks. She was previously employed by Catholic Charities, where she worked in a girl’s group home in Philipsburg, N.J.  

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

Katja Kruppe March 22, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I think what most people don't take into consideration is that times have changed. When we were children, most foods were not over-processed and stuffed with hidden chemicals and sugars. From the cereal in the morning to the "low fat" yogurt for snack to the "organic dinner out of a box" we offer our kids, all have sugars in it and if not that it's another form of sweetener. The FDA even approved chemical sweeteners that don't have to be on the label of processed organic products, so you would never know if you or your child consume it. So while I can somewhat control what goes into my child, I would also like to have a say in if or at least the knowledge that extra treats were served. How many of your kids come home to really tell about their day in school? The most you get out of them is "good" in response to the question how was school. If they eat school lunches, they often have long forgotten what they ate by the time they get home...so in my opinion the "nay-saying" is far from ridiculous.
Beth March 22, 2012 at 12:30 PM
I have to argue that homemade cupcakes from when I was in school to now, probably have similar ingredients. We can hoover all we want, but a cupcake for someones birthday that someone made at home? Sugar is sugar is sugar. I say let them have a treat once in a while. We seem to be trying to control our childrens' lives so much that I fear when they have to have control, they aren't going to know how to do it.
Katja Kruppe March 22, 2012 at 12:41 PM
My argument wasn't about the homemade cupcake brought in but the food we and our kids consume every day. If anyone thinks that only treats and sodas are responsible for the increasing obesity rates, you are fooling yourself. Leave the cupcakes to parties outside of school. They are also a disruption of the everyday school schedule and with the amount of students in a class, that would almost be a weekly disruption. My son's school doesn't allow for them and we have not missed it. The kids still celebrate their b-days and invite each other.
Beth March 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I totally agree with you regarding the food we and our kids eat everyday. I think there is way too much junk out there. My kids are not in the public schools yet, so I have not had to face that challenge and I don't look forward to it. I agree there should be more healthy options out there for them, but lets face it-most unhealthy food is cheap and not everyone has the means to buy the healthiest options all the time. I just know that when I was young (although my birthday is after school lets out) I would look forward to having a treat for someone elses birthday. And, I think it's nice to be able to have that kid in the spot light for just one day. I am not a teacher, so I don't know what kind of disruption a birthday celebration has on the class. I just think it's a shame that we are getting away from what was the "norm" for us and headed toward a new "norm", thinking it will make a dent in the obesity epidemic-because it won't. What will help is increasing the kids' activity levels, limiting their time behind a brain draining electronic device, and getting outside to actually play with the kids.
Katja Kruppe March 22, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I don't think that unhealthy food is always cheaper, a bag of apples cost no more than a big bag of chips or pretzels. It's a matter of convenience and the choices we have grown accustomed to over the years. And the food industry has made sure that we come back for more and more of it by hiding ingredients in it that will make you crave these foods and allow you to eat more at a time. About having kids in the spotlight; they do students of the week, artist of the week and so on; in my opinion that is a much fairer way to make a child feel special and include all kids that have birthdays outside of school days. My son's school has done special days like a Thanksgiving Feast for example, where the teachers & parents also provide food to the class; another way to have a special treat every now and then and not being forced to enact it almost every week. And not every parent is as actively involved in their child's life, so some kids might not be sent in with treats on their b-day at all, making the kid stand out in a negative way. Someone said the class sang a song for their child, I like that idea and I think that's how we celebrated each kid's b-day back in my school days in (East)Germany. So indeed, I cannot compare to what used to be "the norm" in the US, but just based on the comments on this page alone, it seems that every school handles it differently and there truly is no "norm"

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