Friday, September 21, 2007

Banning Cupcakes and Peanut Butter

I learned recently of two equally peculiar bans that have been catching on in elementary schools: cupcakes and peanut butter. They aren't the only food item being banned either, whole milk, white bread and soda have been slashed recently as well. Regulations for health concerns are generally good practice, but how far will they go and how far should they be allowed to go?

The ban on whole milk, white bread, and soda stems from the increase in childhood obesity in the last thirty years. Since the 1970s the number of overweight children has doubled for among ages 2-5 and teens 12-19, while for children aged 6 to 11 the number has tripled. Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) of Illinois said, "We know that better nutrition helps children attend school more regularly, behave better when they're in school, and score better on tests". And therefore many states and school districts are doing something about it. Replacing whole milk with 2% or skim, and replacing white bread with wheat will greatly improve the diet of our children, but cutting out good old healthy peanut butter?

Peanut butter is a good staple. It has protein and good fats, and still tastes good after sitting in lunch box for several hours. I think that people should look at the numbers and likelihood of serious cases before banning this healthy, cheap, and easy to prepare food. Dr. Max van Gilder, a Manhattan pediatrician, who was interviewed on this topic by the NYTimes said that in 25 years of practicing and seeing over 2,500 patients, only one had the most severe form of peanut allergy.

Banning peanut butter is missing the point the doctor claims; ''There's peanut butter in the world... I think the issue is that food should be properly labeled.'' In the few cases where the rare allergy is present, those children should already be carrying an Epipen and all the teachers and lunchroom staff should be alerted to this allergy. The allergy can be managed wisely without having to cause an entire school district to ban it. The likelihood of a child dying at school from being exposed to peanut butter is just so rare. The CDC reported that in a recent year 2,880 children died in car accidents, while only 5 died from all types of food allergies.

As for cupcakes, it seems that if you are going to ban sweets, why pick one out amongst all the others? Chocolate is ok, cheese puffs, cookies, brownies, Halloween candy... the list goes on of possible junk kids may bring to school. Why do cupcakes get singled out? In Texas, parents were so upset and vocal that legislators passed the "Safe Cupcake Amendment" which allows individual districts to decide their policy on cupcakes, so long as it does not conflict with the policies of the Texas or US Dept. of Agriculture. I understand the dilemma, health versus tradition and a little fun-- but I think if parents are good about smart meals at home and healthy lunches, a birthday cupcake one or twice a month never really hurt anyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obviously you are blessed enough to not have a child with a life threatening allergy. Good for you.

You might feel differently if you did walk a mile in the shoes of a parent with a child with this condition. Then you might say something along the lines of, "Wow. It's just a lousy peanut. Is it REALLY that difficult to do if it could possibly save the life of a child?!" There are MANY other options available like soybutter, peabutter and sunflower seed butter if the love affair with these nut butters are so strong that your child cannot survive one meal without it.

Please. Try some compassion.