The Cupcake Wars: As Seen in the NY Times (Plus More!)

The Cupcake Wars: As Seen in the NY Times (Plus More!)
Last week, there was an article in the NY Times about Meme Roth and her fight with her children’s school concerning school birthday parties and cupcakes.

What sets her off is the junk food served on special occasions: the cupcakes that come out for every birthday, the doughnuts her children were once given in gym, the sugary “Fun-Dip” packets that some parent provided the whole class on Valentine’s Day.

“I thought I was sending my kid to P.S. 9, not Chuck E. Cheese,” Ms. Roth, a trim, impassioned 40-year-old from Atlanta, said in an interview. “Is there or is there not an obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country?”

Although I agree with Ms. Roth’s concern, the article outlines the outlandish strategies and infantile behaviour she uses to get her point across. For the complete article, click here.

Those who know me understand that this is my pet issue. I have seen too many children crying because they are trying to eat healthy but are surrounded by so many temptations. In my opinion, schools should be a safe haven. So I drafted a letter to the NY Times and surprising, it was printed in Saturday’s paper! Here is my article below:

Published: June 19, 2009

Esther Pearl Watson

Re “Mother’s Fight Against Junk Food Puts a School on Edge,” by Susan Dominus (Big City column, June 16):

As a pediatrician and a child weight loss specialist, I am conflicted about this article. MeMe Roth, the mother “driven mad” by junk food, may not use the best tactics, but her point is right. We are in the midst of a child obesity epidemic. One out of every three children in our country is either overweight or obese. Our schools should be a safe haven for our children.

I have overweight children crying in my office on a daily basis because they are trying to eat well but are confronted with temptations at school. I do believe in all foods in moderation. But our children have plenty of exposure to unhealthy foods outside of school.

In a typical classroom of 26 children, there are up to 26 days of birthday cupcakes to contend with. Then you add in celebrations for holidays, and many classes have a party every week. There are many healthy birthday options, and we can use them to celebrate our children’s birthdays without sacrificing their health.

Joanna Dolgoff
New York, June 16, 2009

I am interested in hearing your thoughts about cupcakes and school birthday parties. I know I am in the minority. I agree that it is perfectly fine for a child to have a cupcake every now and then. The problem is that it becomes more than now and then. Each child’s birthday usually results in two cupcakes- one at the school party and one at the out-0f-school party. Not to mention all the junk food that is thrown at our kids from everywhere else. Is it really necessary to add another temptation? Can’t we celebrate a birthday without eating unhealthy fare?

Next week: my suggestions for healthy birthday celebrations.

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Comment by Ann Oliver on June 26, 2009 at 10:53am
This is a tough issue. My daughter is 6 and I struggle to help her make healthy food choices and be aware of how many "treats" she has in a day. She already complains about the size of her belly and steps on the scale each morning.

It's hard for kids to resist temptation when it comes at them from so many areas--school parties are just one. Well-meaning relatives and babysitters want to please the kids with treats, the music from the ice cream truck lures them, the concession stand at the pool offers choices we don't have at home. These are just a few sources of temptation my daughter faces in a typical day, no wonder she (and other kids) cry in frustration.

My strategy is to educate my girl on why she needs to make healthy food choices and stay active. It's not an easy lesson to learn at this age, but I hope over time it will sink in.

Looking foward to hearing your suggestions for healthy birthday celebrations. As a "room mom" and PTA leader, I'd be happy to share your ideas.

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