School Lunch Food Safety | Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

November 21, 2013

School Lunch Food Safety

It's nearly the end of November, and we've been into the school groove for almost 3 months now. As a mom who is new to the "school-aged child," it has been a bit of a learning curve to making lunches every day. For preschool, I only had to pack lunches 3 or so days a week. Now, it's 5 days a week (and 3 or 4 of those days I need to pack two lunches - one for Chica and one for Bug)! And since Chica is in Full Day Kindergarten, I also have to provide a healthy snack. 

It takes a lot more planning and preparation than I am used to!

Some days, it is all I can do to throw together a well-balanced lunch. When Chica started Kindergarten, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't give her the same boring lunch every day. I look back guiltily over her preschool lunches, which consisted of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, yogurt and maybe a snack bag of pretzels or goldfish. Every day. That's it. I still feel bad about it! Now that we are in Elementary School, I'm working hard to shake things up (thank you Pinterest!)

But with all of the creative energies it takes amidst chaotic and hectic days, sometimes I am not always mindful with how I am handling the food safety end of packing lunches. After learning from the USDA about food safety a few months ago, I have changed a lot of my food handling techniques. It's hard not to once you are so aware! I utilize these strategies with dinner and baking, but it never occurred to me to handle lunches with the same care.

Did you know: 1 in 6 Americans (about 48 million people) could suffer from foodborne illness this year. The result is approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and sadly, an estimated 3,000 deaths!

We need to be packing those lunches with care!

Luckily, the Ad Council and USDA have worked together to create this very helpful guide on how to pack a safe and satisfying lunch. Whew!

Check out How to Pack a Safe & Satisfying School Lunch by Food Safe Campaign (Ad Council, USDA, HHS) on Snapguide.

They've also put together these awesome tips:

Tip #1: If the lunch you’re packing contains perishable food items like cold cut meats, eggs and yogurt, make sure to pack it with freezer packs or keep it otherwise chilled. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the "Danger Zone" — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 °C and 60 °C). So, perishable food transported without an ice source won't stay safe long.

Tip #2: Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze juice boxes overnight and use as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink!

Tip #3: Pack lunches in an insulated, soft-sided lunch bag. Lunches with perishable food items can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in an old-fashioned brown paper bag.

Tip #4: If there is a refrigerator at school, tell your child to keep their lunch inside. But leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Tip #5: After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Do you feel better prepared to pack safe and healthy lunches? 

To learn more, visit
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