Life is sweet again for cupcake lovers.
On Thursday, May 10, the Massachusetts legislature ditched a controversial law passed earlier this month that would ban junk food sold in the cafeteria, treats brought in for birthday celebrations, and yes, bake sales, too.
Set to take effect on August 1, the law on nutritional standards in school didn’t sit too well with parents or legislators, who considered the move too extreme. Faced with rising waves of criticism, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had no choice but to repeal the restriction, urging public health officials to back down.
Now, while the strict nutrition standards will stand in the cafeteria, with sweets barred from vending machines, snack shops, and lunch-line fare, classrooms will be free from the restraints. That means holiday cupcakes in classrooms are once again legal and bake sale fundraisers are back on.
But Patrick and his team emphasize that despite the supposed setback, Massachusetts, has not given up the battle against childhood obesity, determined to cut down calories, sugar, and waistlines in schools.
“The school nutrition standards have always been about reducing childhood obesity in Massachusetts and protecting our kids from the serious long-term health impacts that obesity can cause,’’said John Auerbach, state public health commissioner, in a statement to reporters.
“At the direction of Governor Patrick, the department will seek to remove these provisions. We hope to return the focus to how we can work together to make our schools healthy environments in which our children can thrive.’’
Much of the outcry against the ban on bake sales came from extracurricular advisors at schools, who say that the sale of cookies and cupcakes accounts for a large portion of the cash they need to keep after-school programs running.
Terri L. Murphy, who works as treasurer for the Music, Art, and Drama Association in Ipswich, Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe that upon hearing news of the new law, she e-mailed Ipswich representative Bradford Hill to plead her case.
“It was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re going to lose about $6,000 a year,’” said Murphy, adding that while the program offers up healthy goodies for sale, they don’t bring in the money like good old-fashioned brownies and donuts do.
“Do we put out apples and oranges and yogurt? Yes. Do they sell? No.”
But proponents of the law retort that profits shouldn’t come above health, noting that many schools have successfully raised money for programs without resorting to sweet snacks.
“We are telling the students you need to eat healthy except if you want to purchase something in the corridor to support an organization, so then it’s OK if you eat unhealthy,’’ said Gail Koutroubas, food service director of the Andover public schools and president of the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts, when speaking to the Boston Globe.
Despite the controversy, however, Massachusetts officials remain optimistic, sure that they are sailing in the right direction.
“Nobody’s interested in banning bake sales,’’ said Governor Patrick. “What we are interested in is student nutrition and delivering good choices.’’
Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Strawberry_cupcakes.jpg