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by Abigail Van Buren

Family's Pantry Has Become Neighbor Kids' Favorite Buffet

DEAR ABBY: We recently moved to a new neighborhood. Soon thereafter, some kids who were at our house playing with our kids began rooting through my pantry for snacks. A few days later, kids from another family did the same thing. (I would die of embarrassment if I found out mine ever behaved that way.)

I began stocking the pantry with snacks and juices I knew the kids enjoyed. Except now, the "available" snacks are in a special bin to keep everyone from rummaging around in our pantry. Yesterday, my kids told me that they are rarely offered treats when they visit these children. They even take snack breaks and eat in front of my kids without offering them anything.

I spend $30 a week in extra goodies for the handful of kids in my neighborhood who don't always wait until they are offered a snack. Sometimes they'll lurk in the kitchen upon arrival. It's not uncommon for them to ask for extra snacks -- even four brownies!

Should I continue my generosity? Am I being taken advantage of by the local cookie monsters? I don't want to do anything to ruin the friendships my kids have with these neighborhood children. -- PANTRY POLICE IN UTAH

DEAR PANTRY POLICE: You may, indeed, be being taken advantage of. It would be interesting to know if those children are served the kind of snacks at home that they are at your house. (Are they really hungry, or could their parents be restricting their access to sweets, perhaps?)

Talk to their parents and tell them what has been happening. Then inform those kids that there are "certain rules" in your house and one of them is that they must first ask permission before helping themselves to anything.

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