Kentucky Elementary School Bans Birthday Cake And Other Sweets

Kids at an elementary school in Kentucky will have to celebrate their birthdays with bookmarks and erasers instead of birthday cake and ice cream, the Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting.

In an effort to combat the threat of childhood obesity, school officials at Burlington Elementary School in Burlington, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati) have banned all treats from in-school birthday celebrations. Boone County Schools official Kathy Reutman told The Kentucky Enquirer that the school has an obligation to look out for the wellness of its kids, even if it means banning birthday cake.

"About 37 percent of our children are at risk [for obesity] or obese. It's not up to us to tell parents what to do. But when children are in our care we make sure that nothing gets in the way of them and their learning. Food allergies or too much sugar get in the way of that."
Valerie Bailey is on the committee that crafted the birthday cake ban and has a son who goes to Burlington Elementary. She says that Burlington parents aren't pleased about the birthday cake ban, but it had to be done.
"We're finding it's difficult to be the first. Parents say it's not fair. But we hope it sends a message to the parents and kids, especially with the obesity rate being so high, and puts a bug in their ear."
The birthday cake ban comes as part of a general trend toward healthier food options in the nation's schools, largely at the behest of federal guidelines championed by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program. Although there's some misunderstanding about what the guidelines actually do, they don't specifically ban birthday cakes (or sodas or bake sales). Instead, they "encourage" schools, through federal subsidies, to offer healthier alternatives. It does require all schools to have a "wellness policy," which is up to the individual schools to write and implement. It's Burlington's "wellness policy" that bans birthday cakes and not federal laws.

The birthday cake ban does not mean that the children of Burlington can't celebrate each other's birthdays at school; they just have to do it without food. That means that kids bring such things as erasers, pencils and bookmarks to share with classmates to celebrate birthdays. One kid, for example, brought jump ropes for his classmates, and the kids celebrated his birthday by having a jump rope party, according to the Kentucky Enquirer.

Do you believe that schools should ban birthday cakes and other treats to fight obesity? Let us know what you think in the Comments below.

[Image courtesy of: Beth Warren Nutrition]