Safe & Yummy School Lunches

A five-pronged approach to keeping lunchboxes not just tasty but safe. Plus, some easy lunchbox meals that hold up until lunchtime.

Here is a five-pronged approach to keeping lunchboxes not just tasty but safe:

1)     Equip the refrigerator in your children’s classrooms and your workplace with a fridge thermometer. Make sure that the temperature on the middle shelf of the fridge stays below 40° F.

2)     Do not rely on cold packs to do the job of cooling your lunches; evidence suggests that they don’t do so adequately.

3)     Pack lunches that minimize the danger of foodborne illness. If a food cannot be left out safely on your countertop for 2 hours, it shouldn’t be included in a lunchbox, either.

4)     The greatest risk of foodborne illness is likely to be your own unwashed hands, so before you make and pack a lunch, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Wash them again before you unpack and eat it. Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating lunch, too, particularly at school.

5)     Wash out lunchboxes regularly. Those stray bits of food left in the bottom and in the cracks are as capable of harboring foodborne pathogens as any sandwich.

Here are some easy and delightful lunchbox meals that hold up even when their temperature rises. In most of them, high acid or high sugar (as in jam) protects the foods.

Double PBJ  The old classic, with extra peanuts: Whole wheat bread, jam or jelly, peanut butter, crushed peanuts; fall apple (leave it whole and unpeeled); trail mix or granola bar.

Wild rice salad  Make this with cooked wild rice, scallions, nuts, dried fruit, and a tangy, high-acid vinaigrette; nuts; Rustica olive or fruit bread; unpeeled whole plum.

Picnic Fare Traditional salami; hard cheese; stirato roll; toasted walnuts; unpeeled pear.

Cheese & Crackers Rye Crackers; thinly sliced cheddar’ toasted pecans’ whole unpealed apple.

Hot Soup A thermos does a better job of keeping liquids hit than cold packs do of keeping foods cold, so take a lively, filling soup to work or school. Supplement it with bread or crackers; whole unpeeled fruit or dried fruit; nuts or chocolate.