School Cupcake Ban: Good Idea or Too Extreme?

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?


4 thoughts on “School Cupcake Ban: Good Idea or Too Extreme?

  1. I think I take the “better safe than sorry” approach to this issue. I think overall, the benefits for trying to mitigate obesity and instill good eating habits within the school system (regardless of what goes on at home) outweighs having junk food in the classroom.

    • I agree Liz, better to er on the side of caution. I like how the school still rewarded the students with an extra 30 minutes of gym… more dodge ball and play time could never be a bad thing, right?

  2. I have to disagree ladies. I believe it is more important to instill the concepts of “nutritonal management” in our children rather than making certain foods off limits.

    I raised 3 children who are all of normal body weight. They are considered a minority these days since so many are obese and overweight….and thus the obvious concern.

    The key to raising normal weight children…3 meals a day + snack time vs. The “open cupboard” concept. So many kids these days have open access to the food cupboard and snack constantly from boredom. They sit and watch TV or play computer/video games instead of getting proper exercise.

    Instilling the ideal that food is made to support the nutritional functions of the body and not for entertainment to cure boredom needs to start at home. Limiting access to cupcakes and other “fun” foods will only cause the child to want those items more…and as an adult there will be an increased likelihood to binge on those items.

    Occasional cupcakes at a school birthday party are going to cause obesity…and eliminating them at school will not cure it either.

    • A friend recently shared this with me via email:
      “In the UK most schools do not allow food from home to be distributed to the class because of the fear of nut allergies. They were until recently allowed to give out a wrapped boiled sweet or something that has been wrapped by a manufacturer as long as it contained no nuts. I think the practice was harmless enough and political correctness has gone mad. One cup cake does not make a child obese a daily diet full of fat and a lack of exercise does!”

      I think you are both onto something… that one treat here and there isn’t what harms a child. However, children are not being parented today like you parented your children… many are not taught to eat (or are fed) nutritious meals and thus the one cupcake is not the only sweet they eat that day. Plus, who wouldn’t want extra play time in the gym? I would have LOVED that 🙂

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