There are plenty of reasons to move away from food-based celebrations at schools, not the least of which are food allergies: childhood obesity and diabetes, the hypocrisy of teaching good nutrition while welcoming sugary treats, and the “food as reward” paradigm surely needs to be retired.

Many parents of children with food allergies are reluctant to ask a school for another accommodation. But non-food celebrations send the right message to everyone, help control costs and keep the focus on academics while in class.

Try these arguments when looking for support to make changes:

  • Non-food celebrations are less disruptive to a classroom and the curriculum. Food set up and clean up takes away from learning time. Have you ever been in a classroom after the birthday cupcakes have made the rounds? Loud, raucous, and nonproductive. It’s easy to celebrate birthdays with special hats or non-food treats like pencils and erasers. Present a book to the class rather than a cake!
  • Ease the financial burden imposed on some families. Asking parents for additional contributions to pay for Halloween treats or Valentine’s day snacks can be overwhelming. It’s hard to say no when you think other families are watching, yet saying no may be the responsible thing. Don’t put parents in this awkward position.
  • Less mess for janitors. Janitors clock overtime around food-laden holidays. Sugary messes must be thoroughly cleaned so that insects don’t find their way in. Schools need to watch their budget, and this is one thing they can control.
  • Food celebrations stay centered with the family. Celebrations, including unique family food choices, become more special when they stay at home. Students can share their celebrations by talking about them. They don’t need to bring samples.

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