A parenting rite of passage has been stripped from me the same year my only child starts kindergarten.
We met my daughter's teacher at an open house and received some of the paperwork we need to fill out. Among the documents was the school handbook, in which I read this little gem:
Under "Unauthorized Articles"
"FOOD: New state [that'd be West Virginia] policy prohibits homemade or unpackaged food items to be brought to school. Snack or party treats must meet nutrition guidelines and come in unopened."
A literal reading of the first sentence would lead you to believe that you can't send chocolate-chip cookies in a lunchbag. I wouldn't be surprised since some schools have banned peanut butter because of allergies. But I think the second sentence gets at the meat of the message. Don't send homebaked goodies for your child to share with others.
So I can't send cupcakes decorated like groundhogs on Feb. 2 or snack mix in plastic food service gloves to look like witch hands for Halloween. No heart-shaped pink frosted cookies on Valentine's Day.
I can only guess at why -- it being Saturday I can't exactly call the school board for a definitive answer. If I do on Monday, I'll be sure to update. I suppose it's one or a maybe a little bit of each of several things.
1a. Nutrition. Public schools aren't the best examples of healthy eating but I gather that they are trying. They are fighting childhood obesity by banning sales of vending machine soda and other nutritionally suspect snacks.
1b. Allergies. Maybe they worry someone will accidentally put peanut butter into something or not follow other directions regarding food allergens.
2. Fairness. It's unlikely, but I've heard stranger things, that they are trying to prevent singling out haves from have-nots -- whether it's money to buy and make fancy snacks or the ability to craft impressive cupcakes. With more moms working outside the home, it's easier for many of them to buy something prepackaged and send it on the bus with their child than to bake and deliver it.
3. Cleanliness. It's scary 'cause it's true. Not everyone keeps a clean house or uses sanitary cooking practices. Back when I was a PartyLite consultant I watched a woman put the finishing touches on her party food on a filthy counter strewn with days-old dirty dishes, roamed by cats and speckled with flies. I politely refused refreshments.
I hold fond memories of school day snack time and holiday parties. My mom brought in strawberry gelatin Knox Blox (before there were Jell-O Jigglers) cut into heart shapes for Valentine's Day. She also fumed when she had to assemble two dozen pudding bags for us to mix ourselves but it was still a pretty cool treat. For my birthday (March 16) in first grade, she brought in a cake with 32 shamrocks on the frosting so when the cake was cut each classmate got her own. I was proud because my mom made something and it tasted really good and that made my classmates happy and in turn like me. A picky kindergartener, I didn't like pretzels and I needed my apples and oranges peeled for me so those snack times weren't as fun. Only now I can appreciate the homemade popcorn balls one mom made and I only picked at. And oh the heartbreak the day one of my teachers took the class gingerbread house -- made by a parent for us to demolish and eat at our Christmas party -- sprayed it with shellac and took it home to use in her own decorations!
Now I can only look longingly at the cool ideas for class parties and try not to be bitter when it's my turn to bring snack. I'll channel my creativity into a brown bag and make her lunches the envy of the cafeteria. Then they'll see what they're missing and they can blame the school board. My bragging rights as "cool mom" are on the line.