Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cupcake Alternative for Class Parties

There seems to be a firestorm of controversy lately about bringing cupcakes to school for birthday celebrations. Some communities are trying to cut back the amount of sugar in their schools. Other groups have serious concerns about exposing food allergic children to a treat that will cause them to have a reaction. It is true that the majority of food allergic reactions at school happen as a result of food being brought in from home. Eliminating cupcakes at school would reduce one risk. This is a very emotional issue for everyone. Parents want their kids’ health and safety to be a priority. Other parents don’t want their child’s right to celebrate birthdays with cake to be infringed upon. Being the mother of a food allergic child, I think there have to be a way to celebrate birthdays without sugary, potentially dangerous treats.

My daughter came home from school the other day and mentioned that there had been a birthday on the class. I asked her if she had had cupcakes. (K. has no food allergies, so I was not worried.) She told me that instead the mom had come for lunch and served the class fruit with whipped cream. What a great idea! If milk is a concern you could easily substitute non dairy whipped topping. My kids personally love strawberries with cream or vanilla yogurt for desert. K. said that everyone in the class liked it, and no one mentioned anything about cupcakes.

Is it possible that the cupcake issue is a bigger deal for the parents than the kids? My daughter’s class did not seem to miss the cupcakes. I have also thought about sending in a little goody bag with a few trinkets from the party store. Kids love cheap junk! The party favors are always the toys that cause the most arguments at my house. And – I promise you my 4 year old son’s all time favorite toys are the 30 cent pirate cake toppers we got at the party store.

I also heard from another mom who takes in sugar free popsicles for her son’s birthday.

What do you do to celebrate birthdays at school?


Jennifer B said...

Our elementary school does not permit celebrations involving food due to food allergies and other health considerations. So, the birthday child gets to bring in a book to be read to the whole class, and the book stays in the classroom. To be honest, I am glad we don't have food celebrations. One less thing to worry about!

Gina Clowes said...

I love non-edible treats.

With anything edible, you run the risk of excluding kids between gf cf diets, dye free diets (feingold), diabetes, celiac, food allergies etc. I understand that some parents may see this as having their "right to cupcakes" infringed upon but there are other ways to celebrate. As you mentioned, kids love junk.

I think if some of these moms were actually in the classroom and had to serve a cupcake to 19 kids and see one child sitting there without, it might be easier to consider an alternative. Not to mention the fact that cupcakes are not a good fit for the USDA's wellness initiative that public schools are supposed to follow.

Here are some ideas:

Take care,

Modern Allergy Mom said...

Thanks fo Gina and Jennifer for sharing some non food birthday ideas. Gina - I really like your point about what some other moms would think if they saw one child not able to eat the cupcakes that were being served. Kids are so sensitive to being left out for any reason. I get choked up just thinking about it.

FoodAllergyMom said...

My daughter's school is one that is trying to cut back on sugar in general. They don't have a no cupcake rule, but they encourage parents to consider healthier alternatives. This year for Emily's birthday I just bought a box of fruit rolls at Costco, But I also have the school keep a couple of "allergen free" cupcakes in the freezer so that when a parent does bring in cake Emily can have some too.

Modern Allergy Mom said...

I love the fruit roll idea. My 6 year old is a summer b day, so I thought I could just avoid the whole issue. She does not have food allergies, hut I just got a note from the teacher inviting the summer b day kids to pick a day to celebrate their birthday. Ugh - another thing to plan.

Anonymous said...

Better late than never. I just discovered this post while researching something else.

Frankly, I'm torn. On one hand clearly kids need healthy alternatives to the usual sweets.

On the other, it's a shame that the limitations of a few should have an impact on the experience of everyone else.

What if, for example, a handful out of every 30 children was born allergic to fruits or vegetables? Then what? No parties with veggie platters? No fruit cups with whipped cream.

That we're talking about sweets makes it easier for the parents of children with food allergies to justify their reasoning. Kids shouldn't have sugary dangerous sweets, should they?

But you can see from the previous example that this isn't about sweets, this is about convincing the parents of other children to see things your way because it serves the needs of your child. No better, really, than if other parents tried to force their child's needs onto you and your children.

Instead, parents need to teach their children that it's ok to accommodate the needs of others but it doesn't mean they always have to sacrifice their own needs in the process. The two can coexist.

Want to bring cupcakes? Bring an alternate, such as the fruit cups, too.