Wash. school district complies with Michelle O’s lunch rules and bans birthday cupcakes

July 1, 2014

Victor Skinner Victor Skinner

Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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LYNNWOOD, Wash. – Michelle Obama’s national school lunch overhaul is getting a little ridiculous.


The First Lady worked with federal bureaucrats to strictly limit what types of foods can be served in school cafeterias across the country in an effort to fight childhood obesity. The federal regulations on meat, vegetables, salt, and other aspects of the school lunch has been met with staunch indignation from students who have either trashed their mandatory fruit and vegetables or opted not to eat lunch at all.

Now, the Edmonds School District in Washington state and others are cracking down on birthday cupcakes and other sugary snacks students bring from home under a directive from the federal lunch police, according to news reports.

“Birthday parties in classrooms may be celebrated with non-food treats and favors for students. No food is allowed as part of a birthday celebration,” according to a new Edmonds School District policy tied to the federal lunch rules, according to The Herald.

“Appropriate alternatives to food that may be shared on special occasions can be within the procedures,” the district’s website states.

Instead of tasty cupcakes, students can now celebrate their birthdays with gift pencils, origami frogs and extra recess time. Yay.

“The change in procedure was inspired by a new federal Wellness Policy, which requires superintendents to monitor nutritional standards for unregulated items such as food prepared by parent groups, vending-machine fare, student store offerings and classroom parties,” The Herald reports.

“The federal rule applies only to food sold to students, not given away. The Edmonds School District (Wellness Committee) took it a step further by banning food at birthday celebrations.”

Nationally, about 7.3 percent of schools ban sugary treats for classroom birthday parties, while 6.4 percent do the same for holiday parties, according to a Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior study cited by The Herald.

In the Edmond district, the Wellness Committee’s decision to ban cupcakes and other celebratory treats was also reportedly based on the fact that not all students can afford the expense.

The Hearld’s editorial board pointed out how silly the new policy really is.

“It’s important for young people to embrace good nutrition and develop healthy lifestyles. But bureaucratic edicts, especially ironclad rules that exceed the standards held by many responsible parents, are bond to cause backlash,” according to the news site’s op-ed.

“A cupcake a week or two will not make an active, healthy kid obese; nor will denial of cupcakes make an obese kid healthy. In fact, learning how to celebrate with food may be an antidote to compulsive eating habits.”

The concerns about the affordability of birthday treats could be resolved by simply suggesting a modest dollar limit on the snacks, The Herald opined.

Parents contacted by The Herald, and those who posted comments on the news site, seem to agree that the new policy is an unnecessary bureaucratic boondoggle.

“Ridiculous. This is a poor interpretation of the law. Bring on the cupcakes or healthier treats once a year for each child and forget this nonsense,” Judi Caudle wrote in the comments on Heraldnet.com. “This policy is over-reaching and punishes students on a day that should be celebrated as they choose.”

Local resident Richard Martinson, whose children attended Edmonds schools, said school officials seem determined to suck the fun out of the only celebration with friends some students might have.

“It’s a little bit of fun that makes school more bearable, and now it’s gone,” he said.

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