Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 4, 2014

Officials eye issue of bringing homemade treats to school

By PAMELA PRITT
for the Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON — The State Board of Education takes the cake — at least the homemade kind — out of school parties and holiday celebrations. State rules in place since 2008 prohibit parents from bringing homemade treats to their children’s parties. Instead, state education leaders say sweets at parties should be packaged and purchased from a commercial vendor or be prepared at the school.

A bill in the House Health and Human Resources Committee would allow students one party a year with homemade snacks, but Richard Goff, executive director of nutrition with the State Department of Education, said one of the concerns is simply food safety.

Goff noted that students with food allergies could be adversely affected by homemade treats, and sanitary concerns are also an issue.

He touted a book “chock-full” of recipes and party planning ideas the state school system publishes, and said parents could work with the school staff to have certain snacks prepared.

“You can send as many cupcakes as you want for your own child’s consumption,” Goff said.

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, one of the bill’s sponsors, says it’s not just desserts.

Campbell said allowing parents to bring homemade treats to school once a year would teach students to consume sweets in moderation.

“Moderation is very important,” she said. “The purpose of the bill is that we allow kids to be kids at a party.”

Campbell wanted to know if there had been an outbreak of salmonella or food poisoning traced to a homemade snack.

Goff said 12 students in Harrison County were sent to the hospital for food poisoning caused by chocolate bars. He did not say if the bars were brought to school by a parent.

Goff said confining snacks to be prepared at schools also helped stop the spread of the H1N1 flu virus.

But Goff said the rules were not meant to be restrictive, but to have school parties “structured around physical activities” instead of food.

Campbell said the state has erred almost too far on the side of caution when dealing with childhood obesity. She pointed out that pizza, which is loaded with fat and carbohydrates, is on school menus.

The bill did not move out of committee, but will be taken up again today in the House Committee on Health and Human Resources.

Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha said Tuesday he can’t stomach the need for bills like this one anymore. Lane said the bill is necessary because “bureaucrats” have “over-regulated cupcakes in grade schools.”

Instead of spending time on issues focusing on what Lane called “nonsense” and rules, he said the Legislature should be focused on more serious issues like the protection of the state’s water resources.

“Do you think parents are worried about cupcakes?” Lane asked. “No. They’re worried about whether or not they can bathe their children