As one-third of American kids are overweight or obese, efforts to promote exercise and healthy eating habits have included Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and discussion about limiting the sale of junk food and soda in school vending machines. But the issue of cupcakes in the classroom - or other sweets frequently present, if not officially sold or provided, during school - is trickier to treat, as party foods don't fall under the guidance of U.S. Department of Agriculture nationwide standards for school food and beverages.
As previously written about on Scope, sweets for a class-full of birthdays, plus holidays, add up quickly to more than once-in-a-while. Classroom cupcakes have not escaped the notice of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago who surveyed more than 1,200 elementary schools in 47 states during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years on the topic. Authors of the study, which is published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, examined links between policy at the state, district or school level discouraging or restricting sugary foods and beverages, and the likelihood that a school would address classroom parties.
From a release:
The researchers collected corresponding district policies and state laws and examined whether they addressed classroom parties. When policies addressed parties, most were written as recommendations, not as outright restrictions. Forty-nine percent of schools were located in districts recommending limits on sweets, and 18.5 percent of schools were subject to recommendations at both the district and state levels.
Approximately half the schools had either no restrictions or left the decision to teachers; one-third had school-wide policies discouraging sugary items; and fewer than 10 percent actually banned sweets during holiday parties or did not allow parties.
The release also notes that national recommendations include limiting the number of parties or the types of food served at them, or holding parties that do not involve food.