Boone County school bans all food at school birthday celebrations, partly in an effort to combat childhood obesity

Burlington Elementary School in Boone County has banned all food during birthday celebrations, including ice cream and cake, as part of its new wellness policy, Jessica Brown reports for The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Celebrations are still allowed and can include non-food treats, Brown writes. Burlington is one of very few schools to make this move in efforts to make sure students are getting healthy food at school and to also decrease celebration time, which takes away from classroom time.

“We’re finding it’s difficult to be the first,” Valerie Bailey, who is on the PTA and on the committee that helped craft the policy, told Brown. “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.”

“To be clear, the federal government does not ban birthday cake. Nor does it ban pizza parties or bake sales – all notions that have gotten a lot of attention in recent years,” Brown writes.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act does require all schools to have a “wellness policy,” which is determined by the individual schools and is where some schools have created this type of restriction.

Burlington’s main goal when it revised its wellness policy was to address the growing childhood obesity rate, Brown reports.

“About 37 percent of our children are at risk (for obesity) or obese,” Kathy Reutman, who is in charge of making sure the wellness policies for Boone County schools meet federal guidelines, told Brown. “It’s not up to us to tell parents what to do,” she said. “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.”

Students have gotten creative at Burlington to accommodate this change, with one student bringing in jump ropes for the class for a jump rope party to celebrate his birthday, Brown notes.

The Enquirer reports that they have found only one other local school district with a similar rule, Southgate, a one-school district in Campbell County and reports that while rare locally, birthday-cake bans are “springing up elsewhere across the country.”

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