It’s been a few years since overzealous regulators first stepped in to halt the tradition of sharing cupcakes and other sweets at school, but a new study might give these blowhards new ammo. Researchers found that schoolchildren celebrating birthdays by eating sweets ate up to 450 calories during the party, or about one-third of their daily energy need. MeMe Roth, the activist infamous for confronting a YMCA bake sale and bashing 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks for her weight, must be ecstatic, assuming she’s not quivering with rage. (Roth apparently cursed and was hostile at a meeting with school officials over classroom treats.)
WebMD spoke to two nutrition researchers about the findings, and their responses were predictable of restriction-first activists. Yale’s David Katz said, "No one wants to be the grinch who stole cupcakes, but consider that there are multiple holidays each year, and every kid in a class has a birthday. If every one of those celebrations is an opportunity for caloric overload, it adds up to real trouble." A New York school nutritionist said, "This gives the whole birthday party thing some teeth,” noting that some principals in her schools had already restricted food at school birthday parties.
But what happened the last time activists tried to dish out “cupcake control”? Parents from the D.C. suburbs to Massachusetts protested, some even baking the banned treats at home for the first time. Perhaps a better idea than banning sweets outright would be offering kids fruit alongside sweets (which the authors found could cut party calorie intake to about 250 calories) and giving them 30 minutes of recess (something that’s apparently harder and harder to come by at school these days). That sounds way more fun than, say, giving children celery while they sit and listen to a parent reading a book.
Recently we’ve seen how good-intentioned bans on chocolate milk at school are leading children to refuse milk altogether. Likewise, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s “food revolution” in West Virginia ended with children bringing brown-bag lunches from home just as unhealthy as the school food Oliver replaced. It’s time to be a bit more creative than listening to ban-happy zealots. After all, you know what they say about good intentions.