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Food Safety Tips for School Lunches

By Edited Nov 10, 2014 5 6

Having a Good Lunch Will Help Your Kids Do Well in School

By following a few food safety guidelines, you can send your kids to school with a healthy lunch!

If you are planning to send your children off to school this fall with nutritious lunches that your have made at home, make sure that you follow all the correct safety guidelines in order to keep that food safe until the kids consume it at lunchtime. Below are some of the facts you should know:

Fresh fruit is perfect for school lunches!


While you are preparing your child's lunch, be sure to wash your hands and all the dishes and utensils that you will be using, including the counter tops. This will reduce the amount of bacteria on the food. Do not cross-contaminate the food by using the same cutting boards, knives, etc. to cut up raw meat before you cut up lettuce and tomatoes or slice bread. Meat should have its own cutting board, and everything should be kept thoroughly washed. Even though it is a tempting way to save money, don't reuse your paper or plastic bags because they could be covered with bacteria by the time your child has brought them home from school. If you want to save money, purchase storage containers that you can wash in the dishwasher.


If you consider sending your child to school with cooked meat, including lunch meat, then your food, sandwich or combo package needs to be kept refrigerated. Why? According to the USDA.gov website (The United States Department of Agriculture), harmful bacteria grow quickly when the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. According to federal food safety standards, these items should not be at normal room temperatures for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, the food should not be left out for more than 1 hour. If your child does not have a way to keep his lunch meat sandwich or other meat products cool, they should not be sent to school.  Instead, use peanut butter, almond butter or similar items that do not need to be refrigerated.


If a refrigerator is not available at school, there are some steps you can take to keep your child's lunch cold until lunchtime, and still meet the federal food storage guidelines. You can use the insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags to keep their lunch cold. Include a frozen ice pack. You can freeze some types of sandwiches in advance, although it's preferable that you don't freeze sandwiches with mayonnaise, lettuce or tomatoes because they lose their flavor and nice consistency when they are frozen … so your kids probably won't eat them! Even if you don't freeze their lunch in advance, you can prepare the food the night before and refrigerate it, so that it is thoroughly chilled before being put in the lunch bag with an ice pack


Foods such as whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned tuna (as long as it is still in the can), chips, cookies, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles do not need to be chilled. Therefore, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a piece of fruit or some cut up fresh vegetables can be a great lunch. You can also change out the sandwich for some cheddar cheese and crackers.


On cold winter days, you may want to send a hot lunch for your child. There are a few techniques you can use to keep it hot until your children are ready to eat it. You can purchase insulated storage containers such as a thermos that will hold food like soup or chili, and keep it hot for several hours. Before pouring the food into the thermos, you may want to pour hot water into the container first. This will warm up the thermos. Then, when you add your own soup or chili, it should stay warm until lunchtime.

With the appropriate food safety training, you can help keep your child safe and healthy by sending them to school with wholesome lunches that have been stored in the correct storage containers and at the right temperature so that you know your child's lunch would meet food safety standards. Hope you and your kids have a happy and healthy school year!

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Frozen Pizza: From Junk Food to Health Food

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Preventing Death and Injury in Children

Summer Activities to do with Your Kids

Why I Love the Magic Bullet Blender

photo courtesy of photoxpress.com

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They can have cute lunch bags that are insulated and safe!


Sep 3, 2010 11:22am
great article with lots of good ideas to prevent bacteria in school lunches. Especially the part about the cutting boards with meat, chicken is bad that way too. thanks for sharing
Sep 3, 2010 2:18pm
What a great timely article. We need to be really careful when handling and packing food for lunches.
Sep 3, 2010 4:47pm
Thank you for the food safety tips for children.Good ideas to remain healthy.
Sep 3, 2010 8:43pm
Nice article; I miss the days of school lunches for my children! Thanks Deborah-Diane!!
Sep 4, 2010 4:12pm
Food safety tips for school lunches is a great article.Thanks for sharing food safety guidelines. Also, thank you for your great comments on all my recipes. You are my greatest fan so far!!!
Nov 10, 2014 7:03pm
These safety tips will help make sure your children stay safe when they eat the lunches you prepare.
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