As a child in the public school system in upstate New York, I was always excited when a classmate brought in a treat to celebrate their birthday. Now, as a parent who is watching childhood obesity rising, I wonder if it really is such a good idea. In answer to the obesity epidemic, a school district in Michigan has recently put a ban on food as part of school celebrations. It might sound extreme to some, but it might be an idea who’s time has arrived.
The Alma school district (where the ban has been imposed) has implemented the policy as a way to combat childhood obesity. Instead of treats, students celebrating birthdays get an extra 30 minutes in gym class. The district has received federal stimulus funds to create new nutrition standards across the state. The nutrition standards are currently voluntary, but could become mandatory state-wide. This most recent ban goes above and beyond those standards, and has been met with mixed reaction. “Banning birthday cupcakes punishes all children for the bad example set by some parents, and will lead to them binging when sweets are available,” according to one parent. Others say that this does nothing to impact childhood obesity because changes have to start at home. Proponents say you have to start somewhere.
“Michigan’s new standards give clearer direction to districts on choices of all food at school, not just in the lunchroom, by addressing vending machines, school stores, classroom parties, fundraisers and even the faculty lunchroom.” The standards encourage schools to find other ways to reward success besides food. New standards were implemented across the state last year, but only in the cafeterias. The new guidelines take it a step further. School officials say some parents have had a harder time with the new programs and policies than the children.
Personally, I’d love to implement policies like this at my local school. I don’t think you’re ever too young to establish good eating habits and learn that food doesn’t have to be part of every celebration or a reward for a job well-done.
What do you think?