Boy, school lunch sure has changed since I was a kid.
The Chicago Tribune reports that a principal in a Chicago school forbids her students from bringing in their own lunches.
She created the policy six years ago after watching students bring in "bottles of soda and flaming hot chips" for their lunches.
By mandating that her students eat school-prepared lunches, she explains, she can be sure they are drinking milk instead of Coke -- that they are getting proper nutrition.
In these nutty modern times, who can blame her?
For starters, a lot of our kids are awfully chubby these days.
Nearly 16 percent -- three times the percentage in 1980 -- are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If parents keep feeding their kids tasty, high-calorie treats, shouldn't principals and really smart people in the federal government stop them?
Besides, the government spends billions paying for breakfast and lunch in America's schools -- a smart principal ought to take advantage of that.
Half of America's 30 million schoolchildren participating in the National School Lunch Program receive free grub -- at a cost of some $10 billion this year.
Even kids from high-income families receive partial lunch subsidies.
Now that President Obama has signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law -- the government will spend another $4.5 billion to make schools abide by new nutrition and anti-obesity standards -- government-funded lunches will do away with junk food in the schools.
If only we'd had such programs when I attended St. Germaine Catholic School in the '70s.
In those unprogressive times, parents, not the government, were responsible for feeding their kids!
Parents woke early in the morning to pack their kids' lunches -- though my mother wasn't very good at it.
Every day, she made me a sandwich with Cellone's Italian bread, low-fat ham, lettuce and tomato. She always included a couple pieces of fruit and gave me money to buy milk.
Every day, I sat next to Jimmy Schmidt. His lunch consisted of peanut butter and jelly on fresh Wonder bread, a can of Coke, a Hostess Ho Ho and a Nestle Crunch bar -- lunch heaven for a kid back then.
Every day, I asked Jimmy if he wanted to trade. Every day, he looked at me like I had rocks in my head.
So it delights me to think how different things would have been had the toxic treats that Jimmy brought to St. Germaine been forbidden.
Under today's anti-obesity guidelines, his sugary drinks, chocolate bars and Ho Hos might have been banned.
Our principal might have confiscated Jimmy's treats, as some principals are doing now (I'm not making that up).
Then Jimmy and I would have been forced to eat the very same government-mandated grub.
I know we've lost any sense of personal responsibility in America.
I know that government is totally out of control -- that providing for needy kids is one thing, but meddling with every other kid's grub is well over the line.
But I also know this:
Though I never got to enjoy a nice chocolate bar, Ho Ho and cold can of Coke, I would have delighted in the knowledge that neither would have Jimmy Schmidt!
I would have enjoyed the shared misery that the government is masterful in creating.
Now you know why school lunches have changed so much since I was a kid!
Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He can be reached at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.