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Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold—Either Way, Here’s How to Keep Home-made School Lunches Safe and Tasty

Lunch BoxDiane laughs as she recalls carrying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school every day for some eight years:  “It was the only meal my mother considered safe to consume after being unrefrigerated all morning.” Today, we know that safety doesn’t require such monotony.  However, the challenge remains—how to pack nutritious, delicious meals that will remain uncontaminated even if they spend all morning on a coatroom floor.

 

Perishable foods (those that need to be kept hot or cold) must not be left in what food scientists call the “danger zone” (40°-140°F; 4°-60°C)  for more than two hours. Bacteria and other pathogens that can contaminate foods and cause illness grow rapidly in that temperature range.  Children’s lunches, if left unrefrigerated for about four hours, must contain only shelf-stable items, or parents must learn a few techniques for keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. (These tips will also come in handy when adults prepare their own portable lunches.)

What People Wonder About Water

We're getting so used to use-by dates that sometimes we hesitate to make decisions without them. For example, when has an unopened bottle of water hung around too long?  Other questions come to mind: Where does bottled water come from? Which is better, bottled water or tap (municipal)?

Farmers' Markets: Why They're So Popular; How to Find One Near Your Home

Farmers' Market

In 1994, when the Department of Agriculture first began publishing a list of farmers' markets in the U.S., the figure was 1,755. By 2011, it was 7,175, and, by August 2012, the number of markets had increased an additional 9.6% to 7,864.  The August 2013 figure was 8,144, a 3.6% increase  above the preceding year.   Growth in the number of markets is slowing down, but it's still ongoing. In 2015, the total was 8,476. 

What Foods are Sold with Restrictions at a Farmers’ Market?

Farmers' MarketRestrictions and prohibitions on what foods can be sold and how they must be handled vary from state to state and from community to community.  You might find the rules  in your state and community listed online.

 

Regulations about foods commonly differentiate between those that are potentially hazardous  and those that are not.  Some farmers’ markets may prohibit all potentially hazardous ones, but most prohibit only some of these and stipulate how those they allow must be handled.  Some foods classified as potentially hazardous include dairy products, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, sliced melons, raw sprouts, cut tomatoes, tofu, and garlic-in-oil mixtures.   All of these must be kept at the proper cool temperatures to avoid a dangerous level of pathogens.

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