The back-to-school season means it’s also time to plan for school lunches. Plenty of children and teens carry their lunches to school each day. At the same time, far too many food-borne infections in youngsters may be attributed to improperly prepared or handled school lunches.
- Select a suitable school lunch package. An insulated lunch box or bag is better than a disposable brown paper bag, unless you are packing non-perishable foods.
- Choose fresh foods for preparing school lunches. Examine fruits, vegetables, and dairy products carefully to ensure they are still good for eating.
- Check expiration dates on all lunch contents. Toss all outdated items.
- Place freezer packets in the freezer overnight to make sure they are fully frozen by morning.
- Freeze a juice box or bottle to include in the school lunch. It will help to chill the food and likely fully thaw before lunchtime.
- Practice safe food preparation hygiene techniques. Wash hands before making the lunch. Clean cutting boards, utensils, and other tools are a must.
- Assemble the school lunch strategically, placing perishables near the frozen drink and freezer pack.
- Chill the insulated lunch sack (perhaps already filled) in the refrigerator overnight with its lid propped open to cool it through and through.
- Pick an insulated container with a tight seal to keep soup or other hot foods sufficiently steamy. These vessels may serve nicely for cool foods (such as yogurt or deli salads) as well.
- Collect and wash all used school lunch containers promptly, so they will be ready for safe reuse the next day.
Even if parents practice safe preparation and packaging of school lunches, children may still face risk of food-related illness, if they do not wash their hands before eating or if they place their lunch food items directly on non-sterile surfaces at school. Cafeteria tables or classroom desks may be frequent culprits, when it comes to sharing germs. Smart practice is safe practice.
Adapted from public domain art