December 17, 2007, - 3:36 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I’ve said it before and it applies eternally: scramble the letters of NANNY STATE, and you get NEAT ‘N’ NASTY.
When I was in school, we had soda machines, ice cream and junk food vending, and cake for people’s birthdays. But I–and most of my classmates–didn’t get fat. I played tennis, ran track (and did cross-country/distance running, too), and went on walks outside with my dad. And I didn’t eat junk food all the time, just ‘cuz there was a machine down the hall at school.
In the good old days–not too long ago–we didn’t have a chubby, McDonald’s-and-Monica addict former President (and future male First Lady) getting on the high horse and convincing companies and our schools to do away with food sources, so that we wouldn’t have to learn how to exercise self-control . . . and exercise, period.
But that’s all changed. Bill Clinton strong-armed soft drink companies to take their machines out of schools. Ditto for candy and ice cream vendors. Now, there are boring fruit and peanut choices all of the time because kids are taught not to use sound judgment and will power any of the time.
The latest casualty is cupcakes in Chicago-area schools, including the hifalutin’ mansion-encrusted suburb of Lake Forest and the upper-middle class Naperville. And no more Chrismas cookies either. They’re using Christmas cookie cutters to cut wheat bread” instead of cookies:
“The kids don’t notice they are not getting to decorate a cookie. They just like to decorate something,” said Pam Salm, a Lake Forest mother who oversees almost two dozen partent volunteers at Cherokee Elementary School.
Uh, kids not noticing their cookies are being taken away and replaced with whole wheat bread? Who are you kidding, lady? They notice. And not only are cupcakes and cookies off-limits, the food Nazis are telling teachers what they can and cannot bring to school for their own lunches and snacks. Talk about statism. This is the first legit issue for a teachers union I’ve heard of in a while:
The once ubiquitous cupcake, iced to perfection and colorfully sprinkled, may be slowly fading from the school landscape.
As elementary classrooms prepare for holiday parties this week, some schools plan to ban the treat in the steady push to improve nutrition with in schools statewide.
What began with strict dietary guidelines for cafeteria food and a soda pop-ban in grade school vending machines increasingly extends to the last beachhead for sugar-laden food in schools: classroom parties and holiday treats.
Across the Chicago region, districts from Naperville to Gurnee are clamping down on the types of food that parents can bring for class snacks and parties, requesting veggie trays or bread sticks with marinara sauce in lieu of sweets, and water rather than juice boxes. . . .
School districts nationwide fashioned wellness policies last year after a federal law required schools to develop a kindergarten-to-high school plan for nutrition and physical education. Confronted with rising rates of child obesity and a surge of youth allergies, many local schools seized the moment to take a firm stand against junk food served anywhere and any time in the building — including fare offered by parents for classroom parties, bake sales and club meetings.
But changes to cafeteria food and vending machines did not affect parents as this round of changes will. In some schools, this holiday season could test the new nutritious bounds.
Pam Salm’s phone started ringing just after Thanksgiving.
The Lake Forest mother oversees nearly two dozen parent volunteers at Cherokee Elementary School. The role thrust Salm to the front line of questioning from parents who wondered how to make parties festive, but also nourishing, as required by Lake Forest School District 67’s wellness policy hammered out by educators, parents, nurses and nutritionists and approved in June. The policy put a premium on nutrition lessons, physical activity and healthy food choices by students and parents who volunteer to feed them during school parties and meetings.
Cheese and crackers, dried fruits, baked chips, low-fat pudding cups or other healthful snacks are served. Offerings must be nut-free, a concession to child allergy concerns, and void of saturated fats and high-fructose corn syrup. That means no juice boxes, no cookies and no pizza. That is, unless it’s of the whole-wheat, fat-free cheese pie variety.
So many restrictions, my head is spinning. It’s like going to dinner with a humorless, whining feminist. Everything is problematic and a downer.
With holiday parties looming, Salm and other parents have been digging for alternatives.
Rather than decorating cookies, some organizers plan to use Christmas-tree cookie-cutters on wheat bread, iced with low-fat cream cheese and decorated with sliced veggies such as shredded carrots, mini-broccoli or cut up red peppers. Fresh fruit skewers could double as reindeer antlers. Baked chips colored red and green lend a festive feel. . . .
Meanwhile, similar efforts to give classroom parties a healthful tune-up gain momentum nationally. Educators and parents increasingly try to make snacks and lunch fare reflect what is taught in health classes. Consistency is critical, child health experts said. The challenge comes as schools try to shift the focus away from food to games and crafts during classroom parties.
“If you’re preaching more fruits and vegetables and no soda, and then you have a bag of chips and a Coke on your desk, the students will recognize that,” said Christine Cliff, a dietitian with Illinois NET, a nutrition, education and training program based in Sycamore. . . .
A rash of child food allergies — an estimated 3.1 million U.S. children have them — and the cultural objections families may have to some foods also fueled the change, school leaders said. . . .
For the second year, Naperville elementary school principals have sent home a list of ingredients for each item that will be served at holiday parties, so families can alert school officials not to serve a particular snack to their child. Like Lake Forest, Naperville schools no longer permit food at classroom birthday celebrations. . . .
The change can be tough to swallow, educators and child nutrition experts acknowledge.
Some sports commentators call the NFL, the No Fun League. But I think that moniker stretches to the Nanny State moms of the Chicago-area, who’ve been swept up by this move to eliminate fun, choice . . . and any sense of personal responsibility from America’s kids today.
In other words, it’s unhealthy to always be so healthy. It’s NEAT for the PC Food Police. But it’s NASTY for you.
Cookies and cupcakes are part of the fun of being a kid. And part of learning how to impose your own limits on yourself when the Nanny State tofu-and-botox-set moms of Lake Forest and Naperville aren’t there holding your hand.
Taking away that training is what causes obesity in America, not the availability of choices, including sweets.
Cupcakes and cookies banned today. Persimmons and tuna melts, tomorrow.
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