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Food Forum

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Dangerously Delicious Cupcakes

There has been much ado lately in The Gazette about proposed changes in the Johnstown School District regarding a ban on home baked goods in the classroom.

The policy would essentially require any food item brought in for a classroom party to be store-bought and include an ingredient label. The standard is designed to protect food-allergic kids from physical harm and protect the school district from lawsuits.

My daughter’s school has similar restrictions on home baked goods. It’s a comfort to know that whenever there’s a party the school nurse will read the ingredient labels, and my daughter won’t be eating anything that might send her to the emergency room.

However, like any other generic ban, this one is flawed. As a parent experienced in handling food allergies in the classroom, I have some suggestions.

1. Communication: I don’t care whether you baked it or bought it, if it has dairy or peanuts Ronnie can’t eat it. The school nurse is rumored to have a stash of Oreos that can do in a pinch, but if you call me, or the teacher, I can provide a safe and appropriate alternative.

2. Parents, Drop the Guilt: Yea, it sucks when there’s a party and you are left out, feel different in a bad way, and can’t have that fancy cupcake with the colored icing piled high. You probaby can imagine how your son or daughter would feel. Parents, we know you’re busy and you don’t have a degree in food labeling. When you feel guilty, we feel guilty and uncomfortable. We don’t want you to be put out, or to feel bad. See No. 1.

3. School officials, Be flexible: I know this policy is aimed at thwarting lawsuits, but I have a bigger stake in this than you do. She’s my child and I will do anything to protect her from harm. If you decided that every Wednesday was cupcake day, I’d get out the mixing bowl. I would rather bring in something I know is safe than depend on a policy.

4. It’s not fair: No policy will level the playing field here. “Fair” would be each child bringing in his or her own, and no sharing allowed. That’s unrealistic, it doesn’t teach anything positive and frankly, it would just be sad.

My daughter is different. You and I can’t shield her from disappointment. We can take actions that will protect her from being exposed to dangerous foods. We can also teach her how to protect herself, and handle situations with grace and a positive attitude.

I titled this “Dangerously Delicious Cupcakes" because I have a recipe for you. It’s from “Hershey’s Best Cakes” cookbook and it’s always a winner — dairy or no dairy. If your school will allow it, bake a batch and bring them in.

I often use Hershey’s Quick ’n’ Easy Chocolate Cupcakes recipe, but that doesn’t seem to be available online. I’ve also made great chocolate cupcakes using Hershey’s Chocolatetown Special Cake recipe, which Hershey’s Kitchens has posted on the Web site Click here.

Just follow the recipe but bake in a cupcake pan instead of a cake pan. Use paper liners for best results. Bake about 18-20 minutes.

To make it dairy free, you can sour soy milk the same way the recipe describes souring dairy milk. Use Earth Balance sticks to replace the butter/margarine in the frosting.

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January 8, 2010
5:54 a.m.

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For the latest on Johnstown's policy see today's (Friday, Jan. 8) Daily Gazette.

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