Parenting on the Plateau: Kids In America

Have you heard the buzz about kids and lemonade stands?

Remember standing out on a hot summer day trying to make $1.50 for the ice-cream man or saving up some coin (literally) to buy the newest Barbie accessories? The idea of a lemonade stand is as American as apple pie and baseball and considered a rite of passage as young kids begin to learn the value of a dollar. 

This week, the American pastime is catching some heat from officials across the nation as police and health departments are holding children and families more accountable for their lemonade stands, and ultimately costing them their profits.

Story after story seems to be popping up about lemonade and varies from theft to unauthorized selling for a lack of license. Whether kids are running lemonade stands for profit or charity donation seems to be of little concern to the authorities and it poses a valid concern as this all-American pastime is seemingly threatened.

National Public Radio (NPR) recently addressed the issue, as it reported the “American Dream Is Under Attack.” A dramatic title, to be sure, but it’s a little frustrating to even consider that something as simple and innocent as children running a lemonade stand to earn a few extra bucks this summer all while learning the value of hard work and customer service is stealing media headlines.

I made a couple of calls within my community to try to find some direction or rules for Bonney Lake and unincorporated Pierce County with regard to the issue, and when the staff wasn’t chuckling at my questions of “Are my children allowed to run a lemonade stand in our driveway?” they were sharing memories of doing the same thing growing up and musing about why I even had to ask. 

Yes, this coming from the offices of Pierce County Auditor as I has to inquire over a license and yes, this coming from Pierce County Health Department receptionist as I had to inquire about a health permit––both referred to me by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

You can bet the tone changed when it was revealed I was writing a public piece, to which I was quickly routed through Pierce County Health Department communications and community relations manager Bridget Vandeventer.

But the stance didn’t change and in the end, it was discovered that Washington state isn’t as oppressive when it comes to lemons as Georgia, where police shut down a lemonade stand over questions of how the drink was made and Maryland, which fined a stand selling bottled drinks for charity a little too close to the U.S. Open (though Montgomery County later changed its stance and allowed the stand at a farther distance without fine). 

According to Vandeventer, a lemonade stand set up in front of a private residence does not require a permit.

Vandeventer also gave me some great tips on the importance of handwashing to prevent illness and suggesting using store-bought or powder mixes.  Although using a store mix is not nearly as much fun as making your own lemonade, Vandeventer says, "neither is salmonella."

The need (or non-need) for licenses and permits doesn’t address the issue of street thugs threatening our children’s safety and peace of mind by stealing the hard-earned dollar.  Sure, making and selling lemonade is not manual labor, but what are these crooks doing to make a dollar, other than breaking the law?  And where are their parents? 

Recently, there was a report of $130 stolen from a lemonade stand, which might make you wonder what was in that lemonade, but it’s unfortunate that child-sized businesses are also facing the ugly truth of greed and laziness. I suppose the answer, as with most things these days, is to carefully watch and supervise all lemonade-selling-activity and be vigilant in teaching your children about safety and common sense when it comes to strangers.

Above all, one could say that although the quintessential idea of a lemonade stand has evolved from the easy and innocent one we grew up knowing, it really hasn’t changed in the way from teaching kids about business, hard work and making money in America. Theft and law will be absolutes in the business world (not to mention in politics) and will continue to be a part of the American blueprint. They might as well learn that now.

For older budding entrepreneurs, consider allowing them to take the Food Handler's permit class for free so they can learn more about the role of food as business venture.  You can get more information on Pierce County Health's Food Handler's Permit here.

How does the saying go? When life gives you lemons …?

Kelda Miller July 29, 2011 at 10:37 PM
Yay for bringing up this issue Brienna!! The thing is, I don't want lemonade stands just in front of someone's house. I want them at the natural gathering places like the park or near the train station. But whatever, it's a start. I was in Portland for a week this spring and the attitude of Alberta Street Fair (where someone originally got 'busted' for selling lemonade until the whole city went into a fit) has spilled over into a convenient lemonade stand whenever I was coincidentally hot and thirsty, everywhere in town. I love it.


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