Tips to help pack safe school and work lunches
August 22, 2019
Make sure your child's lunch passes from your kitchen to the school lunch room in A+ condition!
These tips are ideal for everyone that takes their lunch to school, work or on a staycation (day-trip) too.
Start Off Each Day Fresh
If you prepare your child's lunch in the morning before school, avoid time-crunch shortcuts that can lead to foodborne illness.
Make sure counter surfaces are clean and last night's food remnants are gone. This helps to prevent cross-contamination.
Clean your child's lunch box or lunch bag with warm soapy water before each use.
Wash Hands Often
Wash hands before, during and after preparing children's lunches.
Teach children to wash their hands before digging into lunch. For extra protection, pack moist towelettes in the lunch box or bag.
Separate Raw Meats, Seafood, and Poultry from Ready-to-Eat Foods
At home, store fruits, vegetables and cooked and ready-to-eat meats for kids' lunches separately from raw meats.
To help prevent cross-contamination, keep a supply of shelf-stable foods that don't require much preparation or refrigeration such as crackers, fresh fruits, packaged puddings and canned fruits or meats.
Mind Your Fruits and Veggies
In addition to washing vegetables and ready-to-eat fruits such as apples and grapes, rinse peel-and-eat fruits such as bananas and oranges and pat them dry with a paper towel. This eliminates harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.
Cook to Proper Temperatures
Pack hot foods such as soup and chili in well-insulated, tightly sealed containers until ready to eat.
Instruct older children how to microwave a meal carefully according to package directions so that it reaches the proper internal temperature
Keep It Cool
If you prepare your child's lunch the night before, keep foods that can spoil in a refrigerator set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Not sure how cool it is in your fridge? Use a refrigerator thermometer to keep tabs on the temp.
Perishable foods should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Keep your child's lunch safe by packing it in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack to keep foods cold.
As an alternative, use a frozen water bottle/or frozen juice box. They work just as well and doubles as a refreshing noon-time drink.
Consider replacing foods that can spoil with more shelf-stable options.
Try trail mix, granola bars, bagels, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, whole fruit, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna or peanut butter.
Find out if students have access to a refrigerator at school and instruct them to put lunches in the refrigerator as soon as they get to school.
Make sure children's lunches are clearly marked and identified.
Finally, instruct your child to throw away all perishable leftovers after lunch.
Lunch leftovers might seem like a good late-afternoon snack, but not all foods can go the distance.
Encourage your child to throw away uneaten perishable foods right after lunch and pack extra nonperishable food items for them to enjoy as an afternoon pick-me-up snack.