Packing a safe lunch

Save time in the morning and ensure that your child's lunch is safe to eat by following these tips.

As the school year is starting to take off, it is important to remember food safety when it comes to packing your child’s lunch. It’s easy to be in a rush to get out the door and throw a few things in a brown paper bag for your child to eat at lunchtime. Below are a few tips to save some time in the morning and ensure that your child’s lunch is safe to eat. 

  1. Skip the brown paper bag. Invest in soft-sided, insulated lunch bags that can be reused and offer insulation to keep food at the proper temperature.
  2. Use clean containers. Avoid cross contamination by making sure that containers are clean before packing food for lunches. Do not reuse one-time-use containers like sandwich bags, as these are difficult to clean and are not meant for multiple uses.
  3. Prepare ahead of time. The mornings are filled with hustle and bustle. Knock one more thing off the morning to-do list by preparing lunches the night before. Remember to refrigerate prepared foods, such as sandwiches or salads, to protect from bacterial growth. Have non-perishable foods packed in the lunchbox ready to go and, just before heading out the door, add the cold or warm foods.
  4. Keep cold food cold. When packing a cold lunch, make sure that the foods stay cold by including two cold sources, such gel ice packs. Frozen water bottles or juice boxes can also be used as a cold source and will thaw out in time to enjoy at lunch time.
  5. Keep hot foods hot. Use insulated containers, like a thermos, to keep hot foods, such as soups or casseroles, hot until lunch time. Prepare the insulated container by filling it with boiling water and allowing it to sit for a few minutes to warm the container. Dump the water when the container is warmed. Heat the food until hot and place in the warmed insulated container. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food safe.
  6. Keep the lunchboxes clean. Each night, make sure to wipe out your child’s lunchbox to avoid cross contamination or a smelly lunchbox due to any spills that may have occurred. Sanitize it with a bleach solution. 

By taking care when packing your child’s lunch, you will be able to ensure that they’re not only enjoying a nutritious lunch but that they’re also enjoying a safe lunch. If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3463).

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