Q Is it true that state law prohibits parents from bringing homemade eats to their children's school (say, for birthdays), whether private or public? Or is this just an excuse teachers use because they don't want to deal with a bunch of messy cupcakes and unknown ingredients?

A It's not a state law, but it is a common school district policy for at least two reasons:

The liver disease hepatitis A tends to be transmitted through contaminated food or drink. People with hepatitis often do not experience symptoms, but still can spread the disease. That means they can unwittingly infect others, especially if hands aren't washed properly. (One contracts hepatitis A by ingesting the virus, which is shed in the feces of an infected person.)

Food or water becomes contaminated with feces when prepared in unsanitary conditions or when food preparers have poor hygiene. (Hands need to be washed well with soap and water after each instance of using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing food.) For more hepatitis information go to www.cdc.gov and search for "hepatitis."

Banning homemade foods in school also protects children who have severe, sometimes life-threatening food allergies. Commercially prepared foods have a label telling what's in the food so the teacher is better able to protect these students.

More options for TVs

Reader Rochelle Eastman offered another alternative to those looking to unload TVs in working condition:

A working TV, even an analog one, can be used by kids who play Nintendo or Playstation games, or those with cable feed. A great place to recycle them is on Craig's List (minneapolis.craigslist.org). When you offer something free, people are willing to come get it. "I have been able to get rid of old storm windows, furniture, file cabinets, toilets, light fixtures, etc," wrote Eastman.

Another giveaway website is Twin Cities Free Market. (www. twincitiesfreemarket.org).

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