Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 8, 2014

Homemade snacks: Treats not worth potential danger

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — We all like homemade goodies — warm cakes, chocolate brownies, iced cupcakes and peanut butter cookies — made with love and plenty of sugar. But one place these goodies don’t belong is at school.

In 2008, the State Board of Education prohibited parents from bringing treats to school for parties. Education leaders said sweets would be packaged and purchased from a commercial vendor or prepared at the school.

A new bill in the House Health and Human Resources Committee would allow students one party a year with homemade snacks. Richard Goff, executive director of nutrition with the State Department of Education, is concerned about food safety and the proposed bill. So are we.

Birthday parties are fun. But food allergies are not. There are simply too many children with food allergies in the classroom. From classic peanut allergies to more severe milk and egg allergies, homemade goodies — made with the best intentions — could be dangerous to these children, if consumed. Young children, especially those in elementary school, might not understand their diet yet. Many still rely on their parents when choosing foods and sweets.

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the new bill would teach children moderation and fight the ongoing battle of obesity. We agree that moderation is a key point. A cupcake is a treat, not a part of the four food groups. However, moderation can be taught at home just as well. It is more important that a child with severe food allergies be protected at school, and, not to mention, give their parents a sense of security knowing their child is not in danger of consuming the wrong foods.

Goff also has sanitary concerns. He said confining snacks to school could prevent the spread of the flu. We hope parents who wish to bring treats will work with teachers and school staff. Goff said the state school system has published a book with recipes and party ideas for schools. In turn, parents whose children suffer from food allergies should also help educate those around their children.

There are many who disagree with food restrictions at school. Some call it depriving students of a rite of childhood. But desserts are readily available to adults and children outside of the classroom.

Thirty years ago, it was common for children to celebrate birthdays at school. Unfortunately, society has changed over the years. Our towns are bigger. So are the schools in the two Virginias. We don’t know everybody, neither do we know which child has a severe food allergy. These rules aren’t meant to be restrictive, but rather a way to protect children.

Let’s keep the parties, but eat the cupcakes at home.