Blog Post for: Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
09/07/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Cupcakes are gone – get over it.
There seems to be a new back-to-school ritual – newspaper stories on how the school cafeteria looks different this year because districts are continuing to try to improve the school food environment. One feature of most of these articles is a comment on how upset students and parents are about specific changes. For example, this article states that parents are upset about losing cupcakes
“But some parents say that by cracking down on cupcakes in the classroom to celebrate birthdays and Halloween, school officials have crossed a line.”
And students are upset about losing French fries:
Middle schoolers in the district of South Orange and Maplewood in North Jersey were dismayed that the deep fryers were removed during a recent cafeteria renovation, cutting fried French fries from the menu. “It wasn’t a clean transition over that, I’ll be honest,” said Patricia Johnson, the food service director, who noted that the district now offers baked fries, though not every day. “We had a lot of pouting that lasted about two or three weeks, and they got over it."
In my own school district, I still have two children in elementary school and we had back-to-school night this evening. I listened to the 2nd grade teacher talk about the new strategy for teaching reading, the mission statement the class had already written for themselves (seriously), and then she brought up the b-word – birthdays. I held my breath.
For the past 5 years I’ve been on the Health Advisory Committee of my school district, and in that time, food related parties and celebrations in the classroom have gone from being discussed, to discouraged, to fully removed. (The only exception is that classroom teachers can use food if it’s curriculum based -- so, if it’s Colonial America day, they can eat some traditional New England foods like cornbread.)
Anyway, back to my story. The teacher brought up birthdays and I was bracing myself for someone to ask if they could bring cupcakes, to which she would have to say no, and this would be followed by some gasps or moans. Alternatively, I was waiting for a parent to comment on how awful it is that they can’t bring cupcakes or to hear the teacher say that we had this policy, but she thought it was really terrible and wasn’t it awful that the children couldn’t bring cupcakes (which I heard from the 1st grade teacher last year, who evidently didn’t realize that I was on the committee that made the policy).
But, much to my surprise, none of this happened. The teacher simply went on and said that for birthdays she really likes to have parents come into the classroom to read a book or do an activity, and she’s flexible and will try to accommodate whatever type of activity the parent would like to do. No mention of food – or the absence of it. No questions from parents about bringing snacks, or complaining about not bringing them. Nothing.
I was amazed. After five years, is the fight really over? Did everyone actually read the notice that went home last week reiterating the district wellness policy and just accept that this is the way it is? Have we finally gotten to the point where the policy is accepted and no longer controversial?
I recalled the sentence from the newspaper article quoted above about the students and the French fries - “We had a lot of pouting that lasted about two or three weeks, and they got over it.”
I guess it’s now safe to say that when it came to the reaction by the parents in my town to the removal of cupcakes we could say a similar thing – we had a lot of pouting that lasted two or three years, but then they got over it.