Cupcake Crackdown: Have the Food Police Gone Too Far?


With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, the New York Times reports that "school districts across the country have been taking steps to make food in schools healthier because of new federal guidelines and awareness that a growing number of children are overweight."

A few school districts have actually banned cupcakes at school birthday celebrations, which has some parents up in arms, because, to many, "the cupcake holds strong as a symbol of childhood innocence and parental love."

Parents in Texas lobbied to get a "Safe Cupcake Amendment" added to the state's nutrition policy. The measure, which passed, ensures that parents may bring frosted treats to schools for celebrations.

What is going on here?

I know you think I'm going to come down on the "food police" banning cupcakes in schools. But as an adult constantly struggling with my weight who was a fat kid, I have to say that schools being forced to serve healthier food could literally be a lifesaver. Yes, kids develop their eating habits at home, but too often all they learn there is how to twist their parents' arms to ensure the constant flow of junk food. At least that's what our clever but thin (thanks to his mother's genes) son was able to do to us.

People in the education biz often complain that schools fail because they are being forced to teach kids things they should have learned at home, like how to resolve "beefs" peacefully and the value of hard work. But teachers and schools have found that those kinds of lessons are hard to learn or unlearn as the case may be by the time kids are school-age. In the case of better eating habits, schools actually do have the ability to make a difference every day.

The real lesson to be learned here is that healthy eating can also be source of pleasure in kids' lives. That's among the many lessons they teach in Alice Waters's Edible Schoolyard project. That notion is also embodied in the oft-quoted Julia Child eating-for-pleasure mantra: "Everything in moderation."

So to those Texas parents, I say, haven't you ever heard of mini cupcakes?