Top Ten Tips for Packing School Lunches

lunch boxMany kids’ lunches often sit unrefrigerated for hours at school before they are consumed. If you’re packing a school lunch, has important tips to help you keep your child’s food nutritious, satisfying and safe before lunchtime even when refrigeration is not possible.




  1. Buy insulated lunch boxes for children to take to school. They keep food cold longer than metal lunchboxes. 

  2. If you pack lunch in a paper or plastic bag, double-bag or provide a few layers of wrapping inside.

  3. Maintain a clean area when preparing the lunch to avoid cross-contamination. Make sure utensils, hands, work areas and food containers are clean.

  4. Place a frozen container of water or frozen ice pack in an insulated lunchbox to reduce the risk of contaminating perishable foods. The frozen water will thaw by lunchtime, and the food should still be cold.

  5. Consider packing foods that stay safe at room temperature such as granola bars, raw veggies, trail mix, popcorn and whole raw fruits. (Don't include cut-up fruit or veggies if the lunch is not being kept cold.) If you want to include protein, consider beef jerky over peanuts because some classmates might be allergic to peanuts.

  6. Remind children to store their lunches away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

  7. Some sandwiches can be frozen the night before and will thaw by lunchtime. However, don’t freeze sandwiches with tomato slices, lettuce or mayonnaise, as they will make the sandwich soggy.

  8. Use a thermos with a stainless steel or glass lining instead of plastic.  Steel or glass will keep foods hotter or colder than plastic.  Remember, bacteria grow rapidly in the 40°F-140°F range, so it’s important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

  9. Any perishable leftovers such as meat, poultry, egg sandwiches, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables should be discarded.

  10. Wash and thoroughly dry insulated lunch boxes daily to reduce the spread of germs.  Some can even be thrown in the washer on the gentle cycle.





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