What would you like to know?
Share this Story

How to pack a safe school lunch for the kids

While you're packing your children's school lunches, be sure to keep these food safety tips in mind. Chery Luptowski, a home safety expert from NSF International, shares seven tips to pack a safe school lunch.

It seems like yesterday that the kids were joyfully singing "school's out for summer" and here it is, August, and the school year is just about to start. Since most school-provided lunches aren't vegan-friendly, now's the time to put your meal planning skills into action and come up with a tasty array of vegan meals you can pack in your children's lunch bags. While you're planning, keep food safety in mind and follow these tips to pack a safe school lunch, courtesy of Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International.
It seems like yesterday that the kids were joyfully singing "school's out for summer" and here it is, August, and the school year is just about to start. Since most school-provided lunches aren't vegan-friendly, now's the time to put your meal planning skills into action and come up with a tasty array of vegan meals you can pack in your children's lunch bags. While you're planning, keep food safety in mind and follow these tips to pack a safe school lunch, courtesy of Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International.

Food safety tips for school lunches

1. Pack non-perishable foods

"The USDA now recommends that half of a meal be fruits and vegetables, which is convenient because most produce does not spoil at room temperature," says Luptowski. "Consider packing more foods that are nonperishable and don’t require refrigeration like whole apples, cherry tomatoes, grapes or carrot sticks." You can also buy soy milk and other non-dairy milk in asceptic boxes that don't need refrigeration until they are opened.

2. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot

When you're packing sandwiches, wraps, salads, and other cold items, include a frozen gel pack or frozen juice carton in an insulated lunch bag or box. For hot foods, such as soups and stews, Luptowski recommends heating the food to at least 165 degrees F. and putting it into a pre-heated thermos. To pre-heat a thermos, fill it with hot water and let it stand for a couple of minutes. Pour out the water, pour in the hot food, and quickly close the thermos.

3. Minimize the time food is at room temperature

Even with cold packs and thermoses, you can keep food at a safe temperature by planning ahead. Luptowski recommends preparing cold lunches the night before and store them in the refrigerator overnight to help keep food cold longer the next day. Also, heat hot foods and put them in a preheated thermos right before your children are heading to school to keep the food hot longer.

4. Throw out the leftovers

"Pack only the amount of perishable food that your child can eat at lunch and advise them to throw out any leftovers," advises Luptowski. Further, tell your children to discard all used food packaging since bacteria can grow on plastic bags, aluminum foil, and paper. If you're packing your child's lunch with reusable bags, be sure to wash them daily with soap and hot water.

5. Keep your kitchen clean

According to a NSF International germ study, the kitchen contains more germs than any other place in the home - including staph and coliform bacteria. You can avoid introducing bacteria into your children's lunches by regularly cleaning and sanitizing your kitchen counter, dish sponge and kitchen sink.  
 
6. Perform a lunchbox safety test

Luptowski suggests performing a lunchbox safety test before the school year begins to make sure your children's food will stay safe. Here's how: Pack and store a lunch exactly the way you would if your child was off to school. At the designated lunchtime, check the temperature of the foods with a food thermometer. Cold foods should be less than 40 degrees F., while hot foods need to be above 140 degrees F.

7. Wash your hands
 
"Don’t forget to always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing any meal and remind your children to do the same before they sit down for lunch," urges Luptowski. "Handwashing is one of the best ways kids and parents can protect health and stop the spread of germs."

More germ-fighting tips
Recommended for You
Comments
Hot
New in Food & Recipes
Close

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!