Classroom Parties in United States Elementary Schools

Children dancing in classroom with teacher.

The Issue:

In an effort to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, the school food environment can play a significant role in helping children consume healthy food. However, availability of competitive and party foods of low nutritional value impedes student’s ability to consume healthy foods.

Key Findings

  • Only 7.3 percent of schools prohibit sugary items during classroom birthday parties and 6.4 percent for classroom holiday parties.

  • While one-third of schools discouraged sugary items, half of all schools either had no restrictions on party food or left the decision to the teacher.

  • Nearly half of schools (49.8%) were located in districts with an overall party policy. Only 18.5 percent of schools had party policies at both the district and state levels.


While policy prohibiting sugary foods and beverages at school parties was uncommon, policy and law were associated with increased school-level restrictions. This indicates the potential positive role of policy at state and district levels for improving the nutritional environment at schools.

About the Study:

This study examines classroom parties as an occasion for students to consume both sugary foods and beverages, by specifically looking at the policies around U.S. public elementary school classroom birthday and holiday parties at the school, district, and state level. Data from a survey of 1,204 schools during the 2009-2011 schools years was examined. District policies and state laws were also gathered from this time.