Lauren Chattman is the author of a dozen cookbooks, including "Mom's Big Book of Baking" and "Cake Keeper Cakes."

One of my daughter's classmates celebrated a birthday the other day. This little girl is new to our school, having relocated from Texas over the summer. To mark the occasion, she and her mom brought in a simple homemade icebox cake made with whipped cream and chocolate wafer cookies.

When I picked up my daughter and asked her how her day had gone, what do you think she talked about first? It wasn't fractions or the branches of government. It was the utter deliciousness of that cake - the rich, real whipped cream, the chocolaty cookies that had softened in the refrigerator overnight. At lunchtime, the entire class was in a state of ecstasy.

The next day I read that the West Babylon school district is banning homemade foods in the classroom and allowing only commercially packaged snack foods that meet the guidelines of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Under such a ban that special cake, made for that special day by the new child's mom, would not have been allowed.

How sad. I'm sure the birthday party would not have been nearly as warm and the children's experience of sharing not nearly as joyous if, instead of homemade cake, low-fat pudding snacks or baked potato crisps had been served instead.

The idea informing the West Babylon initiative, I guess, is that packaged foods have labels displaying nutritional information, so everyone can be sure of exactly how much fat and calories they are ingesting. Because homemade foods haven't been subjected to a scientific analysis, they must be considered unknown quantities and thus not safe to eat.

The public's desire to know what's in prepared and processed foods is a good thing. When I first saw calorie counts on the menu board at a screening of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" last year, this information stopped me in my tracks. Eight hundred calories for a large bucket of popcorn with butter? Over the protests of my children, I purchased a smaller size. But in schools like West Babylon this need to know is taking us to an absurd place, where packaged and processed foods are preferred to homemade. Do we know so little about cooking that we don't trust ourselves to judge the wholesomeness of homemade food without certification from a testing lab?

Forbidding parents and children from sharing homemade cupcakes and cookies not only fails to address the major cause of obesity - our diet of processed foods and soft drinks - it closes a door to teaching children how to cook. Although it may seem counterintuitive, learning to bake chocolate chip cookies often sparks an interest in making turkey burgers or grilled salmon not far down the road. When you cook at home on a regular basis, you don't need government-mandated labels, because you know exactly what's gone into your dinner or dessert. Nutrition experts agree that healthy people eat mostly home-cooked food.

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This isn't the only or even the best reason for baking with your kids. As with that icebox cake, family and community bonds are forged when homemade food is shared. Brownies you make with your 5-year-old for a party at school are going to have more meaning and create more powerful memories for him than a box of granola bars, even if they are certified organic and purchased from the health food store.

In 25 years he's not going to call you up and ask you what brand you used to buy. But he might ask for your brownie recipe so he can make the same brownies with his 5-year-old. This is how food traditions are started and maintained.

I guarantee you that the icebox cake my daughter enjoyed on Tuesday was already a tradition in her friend's family, and judging from the children's positive response, I am guessing that more than a few classmates will be asking her for the recipe. Who knows how many new traditions will have started from this one experience of a shared cake in a classroom?

I'm a cookbook writer, and I am not kidding when I say that I moved to Sag Harbor almost 15 years ago because I could clearly see, strolling down Main Street and stopping at a card table of treats set up in front of the IGA, that it was a bake sale-friendly town. As the mother of two school-age children, I take special pride in the birthday cupcakes I make with my children, designing decorations with them that match their current obsessions (bunnies, Hello Kitty, peace). If it were up to me, I'd require parents to send homemade treats to school on birthdays, and ban packaged or prepared foods.

Perhaps this is why I haven't been asked to join our school's wellness committee. But more than one class mother has told me that my daughter's name on the class list is welcome news, since we can always be counted on to bring the brownies.