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Agriculture commissioner declares end to ban on home-brought sweets

Let the students eat cake!

That was the message of a Monday news conference from freshly minted Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who tore into a strawberry cupcake for emphasis as he reminded parents that since the summer, the state’s school nutrition policy no longer prohibits them from bringing cupcakes and other types of foods to school to celebrate a student’s birthday or a school event.

“I’m also granting full pardon to pies and cookies and brownies and cakes and homemade candies,” Miller said to applause at his first news conference since being elected in November. “This is not about force-feeding cupcakes to children. It’s about local control.”

School districts can decide individually whether to prohibit parents from bringing sweets to school, said Miller, who added he wants to further limit state control over school districts by lifting bans on deep-fat frying at schools and the sale of sodas starting in middle school.

The Austin school district allows parents to bring a treat on the student’s birthday, though snacks brought from home cannot be distributed in the cafeteria.

Miller said the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, published in 2004 and later written into law in 2009, banned cupcakes and other home-brought foods during school celebrations.

To align with federal school nutrition standards, the state policy was repealed, eliminating most of the restrictions on foods at the state level. The new federal rules went into effect over the summer.

Miller’s conference drew groans from some who are well-versed in campus nutrition rules. They say the ban on cupcakes was actually lifted in 2005 under Lauren’s Law. Miller’s office said that the repeal over the summer clarifies that law.

Bettina Siegel, a blogger and attorney who also serves on the Houston school district’s nutrition subcommittee, said that Miller’s announcement was unnecessary political grandstanding.

“All of these statements make me wonder if he has any familiarity with the governing law. It’s deeply disturbing to me,” Siegel said.

Miller also said that federal nutritional restrictions should also be changed to give more control to local school districts.

“We’ve been raising big strapping healthy young kids here in Texas for nearly 200 years,” he said. “We don’t need Washington D.C. telling us how to do it.”

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