No more birthday cake in elementary school? Great.


The elementary school birthday party, a sacrosanct tradition and suburban anachronism, will have to evolve past its sugar habit thanks to a new policy banning edibles at school birthday celebrations. A letter sent in August by the four principals of Pelham’s elementary schools notified parents of the change, which relegated cupcakes, brownies, and other birthday sweets to the dustbin of nostalgia for the foreseeable future.

Some call it blasphemy. I say, “thank you”.

I was one of those students who could never have a slice of the birthday cake because of my allergies. When the pastries arrived, me and the other students with allergies could only watch the bite sized clumps of sugar being handed to enthusiastic fingers, knowing that we could never get one. Rather than being a joyous celebration of a peer, school birthdays became cruel reminders of genetic bad luck.

Teachers sometimes gave small packets of Welch’s gummies as a substitute to the sweet pastries that my friends received. Although I did still get to enjoy a treat, I still felt like I was on the wrong side of a food-based apartheid. 

Luckily, I survived the gamut of parties without an allergic reaction, but only because of a meticulous avoidance of the crumbs and frosting smeared on the desks and my friends hands. However, mistakes over birthday food run the risk of landing students in the hospital in other school districts. Even for those who ultimately do not have allergic reactions, the fear of going into anaphylactic shock turned a  celebration into a time of stress. 

This decision to move past cake and brownies recognizes that birthdays are meant to be celebrated by all, not just those who are lucky enough to not be sent to the hospital by a birthday treat.

This new rule also shutters one source of unhealthy sweets, which students already get enough of from school cafeterias and vending machines as it is. In the age of childhood obesity, any evolution past sugar is welcome. However, it is unclear what is going to replace the cupcake in birthday celebrations; the letter announcing the policy change vaguely said that “Students, teachers and parents will collaborate to choose an appropriate celebration option for each child.” 

Pelham schools could fill the sugary void with an organized game, or even an extra period of recess, assuming that there is enough class time to do so. Research from the American Pediatrics Association has stated that increased recess time would make for more attentive students in the classroom, as opposed to the sugar induced stupors that often plague classrooms following a serving of birthday cake.

And to those who think that their childrens’ lives are ruined by cupcake-less school birthday parties, let this serve as a reminder that students can still gorge themselves with cake at home if they so desire.