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April  14

We're Loving It

Take cupcakes away from a kid and you get a tantrum. Take them away from a whole school -- or try to -- and you get e-mails like this.

"Personally I am getting tired of hearing about your family's health and social issues," said an e-mail from Uta M. Cicalese. "I would much prefer that you deal with them behind the closed doors of your home."

Meredith Roth, you've been served.

Roth has been trying to reform childhood appetites in Millburn -- outer Baristaville, to be sure, but we think the story on the front page of today's Star-Ledger could have happened in any of Baristaville's fine learning establishments. Last fall, she organized an experiment lto have Whole Foods cater lunch, which went over like a plate of vegetable lasagna at a child's birthday party. Then, more recently, her son was offered a donut, Twinkies and Starbust candy in school within a two-week period, and Roth became apoplectic.

The health-conscious mother had seen enough. She fired off a mass e-mail to the parents of other children in her son's kindergarten class, calling for a truce on these treats, saying they are adding to the national epidemic of child obesity.

Well, lady, those are fighting words. When you try to take away cupcakes, you're tromping on the toes of the moms who arrange all those class parties and find volunteers for field trips. And this case got so ugly that Parent-Teacher Organization present Jane Gomez actually played the R-card.

"She's caused an incredible amount of hard feelings in the way she's dealt with people," said Gomez. "People are very angry that she does not live in this community permanently and she's a renter. And people are angry that she's dictating what people can and cannot do at home."

April 14, 2005 in Civic Virtue, Controversy | Permalink


Ack, it's the attack of the food police! If she doesn't want to her child to eat whatever, can't she teach him to just say no? Why should the entire student body be punished? Sheesh!

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 14, 2005 11:41:56 AM

I smell another Pulitzer!

Posted by: Lex | Apr 14, 2005 11:42:27 AM

She's a RENTER!?! Duct-tape her mouth!

Posted by: latebloomer | Apr 14, 2005 11:50:16 AM

Seriously, though, altho she makes some excellent points, you can't just come in like gangbusters and single-handedly try to impose your views on a community. It's all about coalition building.

Posted by: latebloomer | Apr 14, 2005 11:59:28 AM

Well if Mrs. (Ms.?) Roth really wanted the school to adopt her gastronomical puritanism she is going about it all wrong.

As we have seen in School Solar Panel Adoption, here is the proper procedure:

(1) The State creates a "usage fee" (make sure not to call it a tax, ohh! we hate that word!) on all grocery sales in the state. Make sure to muddy the waters by always referring to these funds as "provided via a surcharge on Grocery Stores assessed on the rate-payers of state-wide grocery expenditures." (or somesuch....shh! no one will ever guess that means us).

(2) Then create a Quasi State agency and call it something like "The Good Food Coalition" a program of "Healthy Eating for the Children in the Schools" (who could be against that?) whereby the "free" money collected will be offered as "incentives" to school food programs. Make it, say, a whopping 70%! The one proviso, of course, that the food be "healthy" or, better yet, "sustainable".

(3) Encourage leftie activists to then make the very persuasive argument that we'd be "fools not to adopt the program in Montclair" because it "promotes good health" AND "saves us tons of money at the same time". Always make sure to stress the economic benefits above all. Because, after all, the numbers "Don't lie" and Good Healthy Food for the Kiddies at "70% off" is something indeed!

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 14, 2005 12:07:04 PM

I'm glad we live in a place where renting is held against you. Sheesh.

Posted by: Tom | Apr 14, 2005 12:08:34 PM

Renters should have no say in a community. We're obviously just low-life scumbags who come nad go as we please, but not before we really ruin a neighborhood and take away everyone's cupcakes!

How dare she try to help solve the obesity epidemic that we're shelling out billions for every year!

Posted by: butchcjg | Apr 14, 2005 12:31:34 PM


"How dare she try to help solve the obesity epidemic that we're shelling out billions for every year!"

Maybe you have a point there.

Perhaps there are other epidemics resulting from lifestyle choices which are costing all of us money that might benefit from some similar "help".

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 14, 2005 12:43:28 PM

I don't know Ms. Roth, and I know less about her family issues and history but, based on my own long tenure in parochial schools, sometimes, lady, students bloody well need a Twinkie, no matter the admitted gravity of America's obesity epidemic.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 14, 2005 12:51:24 PM

I'm sure if Ms. Roth made the point that obese children have a much lower probability of being admitted to an Ivy League school, she'd have Millburn mothers burning down the cupcake factory in no time.

Posted by: Lex | Apr 14, 2005 12:54:00 PM

If you'd really like to get "creeped out" by the topic...

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 14, 2005 1:00:57 PM

ROC, I just went to Robbins' site. Now honestly, what do we make of someone who has a wife named "Deo," a son named "Ocean" (where are the other 11?) and grandkids named "River" and "Bodhi?" Oh, I'll bet he's thin enough, but I'll also bet he's not a fun kind of guy. Give me Bill Bennett anyday.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 14, 2005 1:20:44 PM

It is the piercing Rajneeshie(ish) eyes that will have me tossing and turning. (shiver)

But I'd bet his book is pretty popular in these parts.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 14, 2005 1:34:50 PM

You should have included the picture that ran in the Ledger. She looks like Bree Vanderkamp. I believe she's wearing little lace gloves.

Posted by: Anne-Marie | Apr 14, 2005 1:50:55 PM

I may be old-fashioned, but it seems to me in the olden days when I went to school, that nobody brought in cupcakes on their birthdays. In fact, we didn't EAT in school. We went home for lunch and the only snacks I ever remember having were in kindergarten - milk and graham crackers. Later I was at a school that had a cafeteria and admittedly you could get some goodies for dessert but there were no vending machines, no eating allowed in class, no parties. Our culture has become snack-obsessed! I don't blame this mother for trying to curb it. No wonder kids are fat. And it puts a lot of pressure on families that may not have a lot of time or money (admittedly this is not a problem in Millburn) to supply a whole class with home-baked cupcakes.

Posted by: Mauigirl | Apr 14, 2005 1:57:01 PM

There's a lot of competetive snack baking going on in these parts. Sometimes I wish they'd jsut ask us for a lump sum at the begining of the year instead of all the bake sales my hips have had to endure. But I guess that would put a whole bunch of former CEOs turned Betty Crocker out of work.

Posted by: W.Geezer | Apr 14, 2005 2:33:06 PM

i'll say it to Meredith Roth just like i'd say it to James Dobson: Focus on your own darn family.

Posted by: E. | Apr 14, 2005 3:09:27 PM

Same sort of nonsense has come up in Montclair schools. One parent was going to circulate a petition that kids not be allowed to bring sweets into school. I was waiting for her to do it, and would have landed on her like a ton of bricks. You want to teach your kid a really important value? Teach them to mind their own business. You don't want your kids to eat cupakes, fine. Don't tell me what I can feed my kids. In my son's class in Montclair, there is a clique of girls who every day critique what comes out other kids' lunchboxes with sweet comments like "that's why you are so fat. . . . ." Day after day, obsessed what other kids are eating. Gee, I wonder where they learned that? Could it be the food obsessed Mom's starving themselves and missing meals, obsessing all day long about sugar and carbs??

Posted by: you_gotta_believe | Apr 14, 2005 3:58:41 PM

[Ack, it's the attack of the food police! If she doesn't want to her child to eat whatever, can't she teach him to just say no?]

Yes, let's leave it up to Five and Six Year Olds to care for themselves, rather than adults setting policies. We all know that children are perfect and never ever disobey what Mommy tells them, especially when out of her sight.

WHy not put that all you can eat M&M bowl out for the kiddies and just let them use their best judgment as to when enough is enough...

"Little Billy, despite the fact that your teachers and fellow students are all enjoying lucious cupcakes and your teachers are constantly offering them to you, and that I'm not there, I would like you to say no to them and use your best 5 yr old judgment!"

Posted by: butchcjg | Apr 14, 2005 4:56:12 PM

Totally agree! This doesn't have anything to do with what people eat in their own homes. This is about bringing25 cupcakes into school. No child in the world is going to say no to the cupcake or the bags of candy that often go with it. My daughter has sugar issues and it is a real problem for me. I know that I will have to deal with Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter Etc. But parents have their kids birthday parties in the classroom. Is it really appropriate? Have a party after school. Many parents like getting off easy by sending in a bunch of donuts and candy. Once one kid does it everyone does--forget a minute about the sugar, what about the loss of instructional time while the cupcake and juice and goody bags are passed out and sometimes Mom is coming in and reading, etc. 25 birthday parties is a lot of distraction and a lot of sugar. I would have no problem eliminating birthday parties from the classroom and reserving the treats for seasonal celebrations.

Posted by: Cheaplazymom | Apr 14, 2005 5:12:26 PM

I gotta say, it's pretty out of control with all the food in class, at least in the Montclair schools. Every friggin' kid brings in birthday cupcakes, and at the least holiday some parent or other is organizing a party (and trying to rope in other parents to contribute). Forget obesity, think about the time wasted. I think it's a function of former high-powered corporate-lawyer-type stay-at-home moms who don't have enough to do.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 14, 2005 5:39:32 PM

Yea....cupcakes and kids are pretty much a big waste of time...About as bad a waste of time as the Girl Scouts I imagine.

Puritanism is alive and well in America.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 14, 2005 5:43:15 PM

ROC, I know there's no way you'd know this, so you're going to have to trust me. I'm no Puritan. (Catholic, actually, very lapsed.) I eat too much. I spend too much. I waste a lot of time. I'm a procrastinator. (Shall I go on?) So when I tell you the little kiddies are eating a lot of cupcakes, I mean they're eating a whole helluva lot of cupcakes. They're cramming those things down their little throats faster than you'd believe. I don't know you personallly, but I'm guessing your a older gent, probably an emtpy nester. It's probably been a while since you read to your tike's class, picked the little bugger up from school, etc. Frankly, I think on this one you're out of touch.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 14, 2005 6:14:21 PM

Typical Montclair Classroom:

25% of kids have a "sugar issue";
20% have a severe peanut or other allergy;
45% have a tactile, sensory integration disorder;
1o% are bordeline Aspergers or some other exotic diagnosis.

All were reading Harry Potter by first grade.

And 99% of them are border silly because they are so so far ahead of the other dolts in the room.

And about 99% of their parents are crazy too.

Posted by: you_gotta_believe | Apr 14, 2005 6:16:47 PM

Largely accurate, YGB, except for the peanut allergy. It's usually only one kid in the entire school system, and yet every single parent is forbidden from sending any peanut related item in their kid's school lunch.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 14, 2005 6:43:28 PM

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