August 18, 2010

Back to School Lunch Packing Tips

As we all know, it’s back to school time.  Many of you will be saving money by packing your children healthy lunches. 

Here are some food safety tips, courtesy of NSF International, to help parents and children pack lunches safely:

  • Consider packing foods that are nonperishable and won’t require refrigeration.
  • If you do pack perishable foods such as luncheon meats or prepackaged cheese & crackers, include a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice carton with the food in an insulated lunch bag or box.
  • Pack only the amount of perishable food that your child can eat at lunch.
  • Preparing lunches the night before and storing it in the refrigerator until you pack your child’s lunchbox in the morning can help keep food cold longer the next day.
  • Don’t reuse packaging materials such as paper or plastic bags, aluminum foil, etc. as they can contaminate other foods and cause foodborne illness. Have your child discard all used food packaging and paper bags after lunch.
  • Before eating lunch or snacks at school, be sure your child knows to wash his or her hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is one of the best ways kids and parents can protect health and stop the spread of germs.

Remember that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.  If left out too long, the temperature of the food can enter the danger zone where bacteria grow most rapidly, which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a teacher, I can tell you that I see many lunches without cold packs that contain lunch meat, mayonnaise, and other perishable items.  Please don’t risk your child’s health. Follow these easy steps listed above.

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