Get Thee Behind Me, Cupcake

Dear Readers: Use your imagination to conjure up the deepest, most Moviefone-ish voice in your head and now hear it intoning this: “In a world, where the school day is 10 hours long. In a world, where there is no summer vacation. In a world where recess is shortened to make time for test prep and teachers cannot hug a second grader who has collapsed under the weight of her 28-pound backpack, comes the unthinkable: No bake sales.”

It’s enough to make Jerry Bruckheimer hide under his desk, but in my own little burg, New York City, the powers that be are now hard at work at banishing bake sales to just once a month, and only AFTER lunch has been consumed or 6 p.m. (presumably whichever comes first). This is supposed to prevent obesity.

You want to prevent obesity, Mr. Mayor? How about making recess an hour long, every day? How about guaranteeing gym three days a week? How about putting crossing guards at all the major intersections so kids come skipping to school? (Ours was there maybe 1/8th of the time.) How about banning car drop-offs? How about making enough real lunch so that hungry kids can always have seconds, so they don’t NEED a cupcake to fill them up? (At my kids’ school, the lunch ladies often ran short.) 

I agree, I guess, that American kids are getting too much junk food, but bake sales raise money and morale at the same time. They’re fun. They’re communal. They’re CUPCAKES, for gosh’ sake, not crack cakes. Here’s the article on the whole shebang. Long live the bake sale!!

36 Responses

  1. Bake sales have been no fun for years anyway, since districts started banning homemade treats. Yes, let’s send more commercially prepared foods so we can boost the trans fat levels! And it has nothing to do with food allergies – we’re a food allergic family, and not being able to take homemade items effectively bans us from participating. Don’t blame the food allergic for this one!

    One district – the state escapes me at the moment – actually cited crack houses as a reason to ban home baked goods. As if a dealer is going to finish the cook and then whip up a batch of cupcakes.

  2. I agree that bake sales are wholesome and shouldn’t be banned. I do, however, get pretty annoyed when my daughter tells me that her (morning) preschool class had cupcakes for snack at 10 am because of some kid’s birthday. There are roughly 20 kids in her class, so this happens more than once a month, plus other parents take it upon themselves to bring sugary snacks when it’s their turn (on non-birthdays). I try to send fruit and crackers or something less ridiculous, and in modest amounts. They don’t need a whole sandwich bag full of Goldfish at 10 am!

    I’d greatly prefer to pack my own child a snack every day (or do away with snack at morning preschool entirely), but I don’t want to be a troublemaker, and I don’t want her to be singled out as “different” – either internally or externally because her mom makes her eat bananas when the other kids are having cookies and cupcakes for breakfast. Instead, I fill her up with eggs for breakfast and hope for the best.

    I don’t think it’s teaching healthy eating habits, and now she has a legitimate argument when I say, “We don’t eat candy/cake/cookies before lunch,” and she replies, “But I had a cupcake at school!”

  3. When I was in grade school we had PE and recess EVERY day. And bake sales and candy sales and ice cream days.

  4. No bake sales at our schools. Nothing homemade can be brought – EVER. And my son isn’t allowed to bring certain foods for snacks (they have a later lunch and are allowed to bring a morning snack) because of one allergic kid in the classroom – which I of course would never want to harm the child, but by 11 years old, couldn’t he be probably able to avoid these things himself/herself? (the student is, of course, not identified so who knows who it is.)

    Bakery only.

  5. @Amy: As long as your daughter has the right habits being promoted at home, that little cupcake won’t hurt her. My kids have the same thing – I took a different tack, though – if they get all that junk at school, they don’t get it at home.

    I seem to remember this discussion several months ago, here.

    Lenore, I hope you sent a letter to the Mayor…

  6. I second the rallying cry that to help prevent obesity, kids need more recess and more PE. Plus the computer labs should be closed during student breaks. While in theory, students could use their breaks to do homework, in my experience, the labs are far too social for any real homework action, and the students could just as easily be out and about.

  7. I’m a health food type so I also don’t appreciate all the junk food at school. I like the idea better of raffle tickets with the chance to win some nifty item. It’s still fun. I never buy from bake sales, it’s all unhealthy stuff I want to avoid.

    I’d like to see much more recess activities. When I went to school in the 1960s we had assigned games at all recesses, including lunch recess. Everyone was supposed to participate. It was really coo . The teacher explained the games for the day, we went to the assigned court in the asphalt school yard. It was all student organized, with only yard teachers to make sure everyone played. It was very structured, everyone got to play, no one was idle. I look back on that fondly. No one was left out.

  8. kids are getting fat from inaction and fake food, not from the stuff that is baked and sold at bake sales.

    funny story about the end of my association with a certain girl’s organization (ends in ‘scout’) – they told me my troop couldn’t have a bake sale unless we also participated in the cookie sales (have you looked at the nutrition on those cookies?)

    our bake sale? the girls were assigned to create a list of baked goods that included items that were organic, peanut-allergy and egg-allergy sensitive, an item that was diabetic sensitive, and they had to create nutrition lists for the cookies. For this, they got a math, science, and cooking badges. We were able to do it once before we were told ‘not again.’ pfft.

  9. Wow – just, wow. What more can I say?

  10. Oh I would love it if the school would ban bake sales! You see, I live right behind the school and as this is a French Immersion school, it is strictly opt in. Most parents choose to send their kids to the regular public school in the area so my kids are of one of the 11 families who live close enough to walk to school. We live close enough to spit on the school and live right beside the path that leads to the school. I am always asked to contribute some baked goods when they fall short, like the day before or the day of the bake sale. And, being as I am a mom who can’t say nnnn…. nnnnn…… nnnnnnnn….. well, you get it, I whip up some short notice shortbread. So, clearly, banning bake sales is the right thing to do. (Yes, it is all about me. Why do you ask?)

    Seriously though, bake sales and obesity? Before the “obesity epidemic” there were bake sales so I don’t really see the connection. A cookie filled with refined sugar, white flour, butter and eggs once in a while is not only a small deal but it’s delicious!

    @bethan – “they told me my troop couldn’t have a bake sale unless we also participated in the cookie sales (have you looked at the nutrition on those cookies?)”
    Hey! You lay off my girl guide cookies! It’s that time of year, too, isn’t it? Time to hit up my dealer for my annual supply of creamy filled vanilla goodness.😉

  11. I don’t know…I like to buy from a bake sale myself, but, in some ways, bake sales seem like one of the many “busy work” activities schools are so famous for. Instead of all of the time and effort involved in a bake sale, why not just ask the parents who would have baked (and hey, even those who would not have) to donate an amount of money equal to what their ingredients would have cost them? No extra calories, no extra time. Same amount of funds.

    The school fundraising has gone crazy in this generation, I think. I’ve already been asked to buy a coupon book, wall paper, a coupon card, spirit gear…and school just started a month ago. Not to mention the Scholastic book flyer I get every week (sorry, I really only like to get hardbacks for the kids, and can usally get them on the bargain book shelves for less than the cost of a Scholastic soft-back. So can I just give you $2 to buy the junky prize you’ll get from Scholastic for the books my kid buys?).

    They have my 5 year old selling wrapping paper already. Really. Can I just give you $10 instead of hitting up all my friends and family so maybe three people will buy enough junk they don’t need so that you can manage to net $9 off the sales?

    I know, I know. I’m a Scrooge. It’s all part of the joy of community. But I have to say, enough already. So if the bake sales went, I honestly wouldn’t weep.

    And I’m one of those curmudgeony parents who wishes they wouldn’t keep giving my son donuts for snack in Sunday school every Sunday. Because if the boy eats a sweet, he’s satisfied and doesn’t eat much lunch at all. So if he is going to fill up on snack, I’d much rather it be fruit and cheese. No, it isn’t going to kill him, but a healthy snack isn’t going to hurt him either.

    My daughter, on the other hand, really NEEDS a big snack, and we are restricted to only sending ONE item. She needs two or three, and could still eat a big lunch. Needs vary. But don’t trust the parents on that one. Feed every child the same…

  12. I know at my son’s school, if you want to brign cupcakes for something they have to be the store bought mini ones, and they would prefer healthy treats. And I can definitly understand that, but really, I think as long as you are reinforcing good eating habits at home, then your kids will be fine. I know personally, my kids will eat grapes all day long, steal raw broccoli from my cutting board, and earlier today my son begged me for some of the celery I was eating, so if they want to have a cupcake at school, I say go for it.

  13. Bake sales haven’t been allowed in my district forever. Nothing can be brought in that’s not prepackaged, and we’re only allowed to have celebrations with food twice a year. Then, it has to meet stringent health standards.

    I was just reminiscing with students the other day about how I used to sometimes toss out mini Tootsie Rolls for class participation on rare occasions. Now, I’m not allowed to do that at all, ever. So sad.

  14. “Instead of all of the time and effort involved in a bake sale, why not just ask the parents who would have baked (and hey, even those who would not have) to donate an amount of money equal to what their ingredients would have cost them? No extra calories, no extra time. Same amount of funds.”

    Not trying to start an argument, but actually, the cost of the ingredients is less than a quarter of the funds one generally gets from selling the baked items.

    For example, my mom sells homemade baked goods every year at the state’s fishing tournament. One of the things I used to help her make was a candy called Buckeyes. It’s a peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate that resembles the nut it’s named after. The peanut butter part is made with peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar. The chocolate dip is nothing more than semi-sweet chocolate chips and a little Crisco, melted together. One batch can make upwards of 400 Buckeyes, roughly the size of ping pong balls, which my mom sells in packs of 2 for 50 cents a pack. That’s $100 from about $5 worth of ingredients.

    Now, some of the things, such as the pumpkin rolls and zucchini bread don’t have quite as high of a profit margin, but the margin is still up there. The pumpkin rolls and zucchini bread typically sell for around $12 a loaf/roll, with the ingredients costing roughly $3 per loaf/roll. That’s $9 profit from each pumpkin roll and loaf of zucchini bread.

  15. red velvet cupcakes ought to be outlawed i tell ya. definitely from the prince of the darkness.
    egads they sure do miss the point.

  16. Another “Gimme A Break” moment. Lenore, you’re right on all counts – increase recess/PE times, more walking opportunities, better & more nutritious school lunches – no-brainers in my book. And somehow, baked goods aren’t as evil in my eyes as candy bars, chips, and soda – I make an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that’s healthier than a lot of breakfast bars!

    As the parent of a kid with nut allergies, NOT allowing homemade items would really screw me up because of the warning labels on most food packaging. Also, due to the poor choices in our cafeterias AND the increased costs, my kids bring their lunches too.

    Thanks to the overly-litigious society we live in, stores now list every potential allergen on their labels, so it reads something like: “This product may have at one point in time passed under a cloud that went over land that 200 years ago grew something that looked like a peanut”.

    I don’t mean to be flippant. I do understand the severity of some kids’ allergies. I also know some parents who blow this thing right out of the water. But who can blame them? I once had an allergist who responded to the question, “Well, how allergic is he?” with “Some people develop a life-threatening allergy overnight; one day, they can eat something, and the next day, it could kill them, so I can’t tell you how allergic he is – he needs to avoid it altogether”. He didn’t appreciate that I pointed out that everyone should be carrying Benedryl and Epipens based on his response.

    P.S. He’s no longer our allergist.

  17. if there one reason i miss elementary school it’s bake sales.all the pairing off and running about, carefully deciding what you really wanted over what you might have wanted, that one kid who always had like thirty dollars(who by the way was also usually the kid who has ten slices of cheese and cookies AND three sandwiches AND juiceAND a friggin fruit roll up for lunch) but wouldn’t share with anyone.

    the planning, the careful choices , the inevitability of running out of brownie before whatever class was next. cookies hidden in napkins hidden in pockets lest the teacher smell them and demand the eaten or thrown out. the camaraderie (and occasional lack thereof) good times. not great as having eaten lunch immediately before(a rule which sparked positive outrage among the k-4th crowd) but indeed very good times. LONG LIVE BAKED GOODS!

  18. disregard my half typed sentences hehe.^

  19. Spot on. Just one small quibble:

    “How about banning car drop-offs?”

    If schools shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t have our kids walk or bike, they shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t drop them off. Other than that, as I said, spot on.

  20. I get your point, but I won’t miss the bakes sales; we don’t eat any wheat and not much sugar so it’s ben years since I bought anything at a bake sale. But I always support the strawberries sales at our school.

    Our PTA now sponsors a Farmer’s Market in the school parking lot, which has been a big hit in the community, as many families can walk over on Sunday afternoons to shop for produce. The PTA works with a local FM manager, who does most of the organizing work.

    I don’t have our son participate in gift wrap/candy sales anymore because a) he doesn’t really like to sell stuff, even for the junky prizes, and b) the stuff being sold is overpriced fluff that very few people truly need or want anyway. Also, my husband is not comfortable asking his employees to support these school sales, so that just leaves the neighbors to pitch to and we’d rather not. In lieu of our son’s participation we make a donation and 100% goes to the PTA instead of a corporation, which is more than the PTA would reap from his meager sales anyway.

  21. Seems so extreme to me to ban sweets and other treats, I think they are fine in moderation. Things have changed so much since I was a kid and I’m only 27. My 11 year old and 8 year old siblings are so restricted as to what they can bring in for their birthday celebrations. I remember how happy I was to get a cupcake in the morning on some kid’s birthday-it seemed like such a treat. I’m a teacher and on holidays and other occasions the teachers want to have a party and have some baked goods, we can only buy cupcakes or a cake from the store. It’s so aggrivating because we have to pay for the stuff and the 6 cupcakes cost about 3 dollars as opposed to me making two boxes of cupcakes which can feed the whole school for ten bucks!

  22. Last year, our elem school stopped the gift wrap sales and did a jog-a-thon instead. Kids raised support for how many laps they ran around the track (or they could ask for a one-time sum). The school, of about 400 kids, in an neighborhood that’s probably considered “upper middle class” but not “wealthy” raised $42,000! It was a fun event, kids exercised, there were prizes and ice cream and a ton of money for the PTA to spend on all the things schoold can’t afford anymore (field trips, better technology equipment, enhanced science curriculum, art, etc etc.). A win-win-win-win all around.

    Except now I have to go to the Dollar Store for my wrapping paper.😉

  23. Anna — Can I ask why you don’t eat wheat? Is it an allergy or a dietary choice? I’m just curious, since you said “don’t” instead of “can’t” which implies to me that it’s a choice, and if it’s a choice, I’d like to understand more if you’re willing.

    WorkingMom — I think what the doctor meant is that if a person shows signs of having an allergy to something, the reaction might be mild the first time, but life-threatening the second time, because that is often the case, especially with food allergies.

    That said, I don’t see why it’d be an issue to carry antihistamines and even Epi (particularly if you or someone you’re around a lot is known to have severe allergies to something) as part of a First Aid kit, anyway. You never know what you might be allergic to until you’re exposed to it.

  24. If we want healthy children let them play. When I was in Holland I ate mounds of potatoes and starches at every meal but as a nation they are slim. The reason is that they ride bikes everywhere, old and young together. Keep the cupcakes and ban the cars.

  25. The whole idea of schools is becoming increasingly confounding to me the older I get. Here we have the most important part of our population, the new minds for the next advancement in civilisation, and we put them in a box for the most alert part of their day. We segregate them from the real society because that is only for big people. In Australia, children in remote isolation do distance education supervised by (mostly) their mother. They do about 3 hours per day and then go out and ride their horse or other activities associated with the running of a cattle station (ranch). Their highschool entry across core knowledge (english, maths, science, history et) is quite competent and more than a few go on to university. I think highschool is also overdone, and could be relegated to 3 hours academic, 3 hours rest, sport and environmental experience, and 3 hours work or service in the community. My guess is better minds, better ethics, better physicality, better relationships.

  26. I never have understood schools trying to dictate what can and cannot be eaten by MY CHILD. Sadly they do it here in The Netherlands too but it isn’t as bad as in America.

    My son stays for lunch most days. A lot of kids go home for lunch but with a baby at home it’s an annoyance as I must walk to an from the school 4x in a day if I do that and it only disrupts naptime for baby.

    ANYHOW.. I send lunches like my mom sent me when I was little. Usually 3 items plus drinks. They have snack time at 10am and lunch at 12. So he gets 2 whole wheat buns or sandwiches with whatever topping he’s requested. A lot of times he wants nutella but it’s not that unhealthy really. Sometimes he wants ham or cheese. I send a fruit like grapes or cut up cucumber as a vegetable and sometimes string cheese if I think he’ll eat it. Then I include 3 drink boxes (1 is milk, 1 is a vitamin juice, and the 3rd is a fun drink but I try for 100% juice if I give juice).

    If it were up to ME I would include a treat. ONE cookie, ONE graham cracker, or something like that. Then my son tells me that he was forbidden to eat the cookie (HOMEMADE too and I can substitute healthier ingredients that way). I was firm that it wasn’t up to them and kept sending it. Finally I sent a note saying I told my son he can eat it and there’s no rule about what I can and cannot send with him.

    Suddenly we all got notes home about the rules. They just said that they expect responsible lunches to be sent. They said no candy, soft drinks, or chips. I sent A COOKIE! ONE!

    Rather than start a fight I just decided to have the last laugh privately. I send stuff that you wouldn’t even realize is a cookie but it is at our house. Go me, I win!

    It bugs me so much because if it’s a kids birthday they come home with bags of potato chips, cups of candy, etc etc and I don’t recall being ASKED if I approved of it. So they can tell me I can’t feed my own child that I personally PUSHED OUT OF MY VAGINA a cookie but they don’t have to ask me if it’s ok to give junk themselves.

    I wish my dutch was better so I could go off on them.

    The eye rolling about it all is that ONE Meal of ONE day will not make a difference in obesity anyhow. EVen if I felt there was a relation between cupcakes and obesity (which I do not), a child will just get it at home anyhow at a later time in the day outside of school. Any prevention the school was pushing for wasn’t worth the energy and in the end they lose.

    I do feel lucky that my son has gym 6x a month as I know that’s more than most kids in America get. We would have it more but the gym is being worked on and the big kids actually have to travel to go to gym class once a week.

    Kids here walk or ride bikes to school. You are very looked down upon if you drive your child to school even in the rain and snow. If they started fussing about cupcakes I’d probably explode.

  27. The only times I as a teacher have contacted a parent about what the kids are eating has been when they were not eating anything but tossing the whole lot.

    I have one child right now that because of meds he is on is not hungry at lunch – but is hungry about an hour later. He brings food and eats in class when he is actually hungry. Meds are for a chronic illness – the timing set by his doctors.

  28. Owen59 – I could not agree more.

  29. Look, there is some middle ground here.

    Yes, PE and recess should happen everyday at school. No question in my mind this is important. It’s also important to cut down on homework so kids have time in the afternoons after school for ballet, karate, swimming lessons, or just running around outside.

    That said, bake sales, and children’s birthday celebrations at school have gotten a bit out of hand. Between the birthday cupcakes and the “holiday celebrations” at school there are (no joke here) roughly 35 days each school year (that is 9 months long, including vacations) where there is a “party” going on with cake! Now, I happily serve my kids cake and ice-cream at home and we have dessert any time the kids ask for it. But for Pete’s sake do the kids really need this many parties? I don’t actually think so.

    When I pick my kids up from school and the teacher tells me they had a party that day I just smile and don’t say anything. But that night we have fruit after dinner and I tell my kids that one cupcake or serving of cookies per day is enough. They are fine with it and don’t fight me, but I’d rather be giving them something I made at home from scratch than some box of Entenmann’s baked goods they are getting at school. Frankly, my stuff tastes better!

    And is it really so criminal to suggest that bake sales take place after lunch? I don’t think so.

  30. I never have understood schools trying to dictate what can and cannot be eaten by MY CHILD. Sadly they do it here in The Netherlands too but it isn’t as bad as in America.

    While I’m not sure I agree with the new rule banning bake sales, let’s not make this out to be more than it is.

    Telling people not to sell baked goods in schools is not, at all, the same as dictating what can and cannot be eaten by your child. In NYC you’re still welcome to send whatever junk you want with your kid for lunch. The school, however, is not allowed to *sell it to your child.

  31. What kind of school has bake sales more than once a month to begin with? Oh, right — a desperately underfunded one.

    I’m waiting for the day when the Air Force tries to hold a bake sale to fund a new jet and is told they have to sell T-shirts instead.

  32. No one else brought this up, that I saw, but what jumped out at me, Lenore, was your casual aside that the lunch ladies run out of food. WTF? How does that happen? I taught in several different schools over the course of a decade and NEVER saw that happen. I can’t even imagine it happening. I’m just floored at the idea….

  33. A soccer-mom/ home baker friend of mine – disgusted with the air-and-sugar Little Debbie crap the other moms show up with for after-practice snacks – makes outrageously healthy and delicious oatmeal cookies with brown sugar, pecans, Crasins, and dried pineapple. Oddly, the kids on her son’s team are always glad when “The Health Food Lady” has her turn to bring snacks.

  34. We live in NYC, too. I just learned about this ruling the other day when my daughter came home despondent because the YMCA after-school program had held a bake sale at her school, and they were told it was the ONLY one they were allowed to have all year. She had been telling me for weeks about the bake sale her class was planning to raise money for Unicef and we had been working together to find something she could make herself.

    The crazy thing is, the school has a store in which kids can buy chips and candy and Kool-aid EVERY DAY! And yet they can’t make home-baked treats, using real and pronounceable ingredients, to raise money for a charity.

    Also, this being a middle school in New York where the kids do actually walk to school, they are all thin and fit. Good grief.

    (I suggested to her that she ask her teacher if they can make it a class project to write a letter of protest to Bloomberg!)

  35. Sorry, guys, I agree with a lot on this website, but not the bake sale issue. One thing that HAS changed since we were kids is the number of children with food allergies. Frankly, I thought the whole issue was more overprotective yuppie parenting til my youngest was diagnosed with a whole slew of allergies. There’s no history of this on either side of the family…until a cousin was born with FAs, too. My child has been to the ER three times with life-threatening anaphylaxis, each time from just one bite of something he thought was safe. He also breaks out in hives just by entering a restaurant that serves eggs (not that we go to restaurants anymore)–contact allergies are a problem for many of these children. He’s not alone, especially among kids in his age group. There are three in his class of 12 preschoolers alone. I expect that when he reaches kindergarten it’s going to be part-time job for me to keep him safe, just between the lunchroom and classroom snack time. IMHO, that’s more than enough food for a kid in a six-hour period, all allergy issues aside.

    Yes, food-allergic kids aren’t the majority, but neither are kids in wheelchairs, and I hope you wouldn’t begrudge the school building ramps for them. (Both groups are covered by the ADA, incidentally.)

    I don’t and won’t fight for a peanut-free school or tell your kid what to bring in his lunch. In return, please don’t make light of food-labeling laws (an absolute godsend for us) or complain that the school wants the staff to be able to check ingredients on shared food coming in to the school.

  36. I remember when I entered elementary school I had all these visions of fun bake sales and mom’s bringing homemade cookies and stuff to school. But no, it wasn’t like that. It was all prepackaged crap, and when my mother tried to bring her healthy sweets to school for my birthday she was told no for drug concerns. DRUG CONCERNS AT AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. We lived in Desperate Housewives suburbia! In middle school we weren’t even allowed to eat in class (most kids brought healthy snacks) but had prepackaged, unpronouncable ingrients cookies shoved down our throats during lunch time. Public schooling is just rediculous to me now.

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