The revised guidelines of the National School Lunch Program seek to limit carbohydrates, sodium, and calories in the lunches that schools serve to the growing children of America. Some school districts are finding, however, that kids think the new lunches, well, kind of suck and aren’t buying them. That exercise of the right to put your money where your mouth wants to be is threatening the financial viability of some school lunch programs, so schools are dropping out of the NSLP.
The Superintendent of the Baldwinsville School District in central New York, for example, says that the revised NSLP guidelines required the school to stop serving a popular lunch option: grilled cheese and tomato soup. Wait . . . what? If that is the kind of result the guidelines produce, no wonder kids are voting with their wallets and telling the federal government to stick it. In fact, if the British government had tried to tax that ever-popular bit of lunchtime fare in addition to tea, it’s fair to say that kids would be learning about the Boston Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Party in American History class.
For decades now, every American kid has known that grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of the greatest school lunches ever. Of course, it is the definitive winter comfort food meal, as I’ve pointed out before. But it is also a celebrated school lunch option, even if it’s not made in quite the same way Mom makes it at home. Why? Because even if the tomato soup is made with water rather rather than milk, and the sandwich is made with spreadable “cheese food” rather than Velveeta slices, the result is still recognizable as grilled cheese and tomato soup.
That reassuring reality put grilled cheese and tomato soup far ahead of some of the unrecognizable grayish pink slop that the school cafeteria served when I was a kid. Grilled cheese and tomato soup was always preferable to whatever the hell went into Johnny Marzetti, a kind of bastardized quasi-Italian option made with odds and ends that had an indefinable mushy, glue-like consistency. Johnny Marzetti taught schoolkids of my generation one immutable rule of lunch lines: never eat anything that was served with a scoop and plopped onto your plate with a loud and disgusting sucking sound. It’s a valuable life lesson, but one you only need to learn once.
So I’m not surprised that schoolkids are rebelling and insisting that they get their grilled cheese and tomato soup back. In fact, it’s kind of nice to know that kids are willing to stand up for their rights. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and grilled cheese and tomato soup is a pretty good place to start.