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Birthdays to become a little less sweet in Pasco County schools

The district has implemented new nutrition guidelines for classroom snacks.
Specialty cupcakes are no longer part of the permitted classroom snacks in Pasco County schools. 
[Times | 2013]
Specialty cupcakes are no longer part of the permitted classroom snacks in Pasco County schools. [Times | 2013]
Published Aug. 14, 2018

First, the schools banned homemade cakes, saying children who wanted to celebrate birthdays with classmates had to bring store-bought treats instead.

Now, the Pasco County school district is putting the brakes on many of the most popular treats altogether.

Food for classroom parties now has to follow federal "smart snack standards," meeting such guidelines as being 200 calories or less, with 35 percent or less of calories from fats. A Publix brownie with frosting, for one, misses the mark, coming in at 230 calories.

The district has offered to provide approved snacks through its cafeterias, noting that provides "ease of access, and can be delivered directly to your child's classroom."

Principals got word of the rule in early August, and began letting parents know shortly before classes resumed. The response wasn't necessarily positive.

"I've heard more about that" than about school safety issues, said Calusa Elementary principal Kara Merlin.

She noted that some families in her school, which has a high percentage of low-income students, will spend the cost of a meal on a treat to allow their children to celebrate with their classes. That special day is that important.

Getting them to follow the new standards will require a learning curve, Merlin said, noting that anything more drastic — such as throwing away a treat that doesn't comply — could do more harm than good.

At the same time, she noted, some parents called to express their pleasure with the change, saying the schools should enforce healthy lifestyles.

The district also is encouraging non-food rewards and incentives.