With back to school time approaching, lunches take center stage once again. When you pack your child's lunch, do you ever consider how safe the food will be by lunchtime?
According to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, as many as 90% of tested lunches were in what they called the "thermal danger zone" that could cause foodborne illness.
I can't help but wonder if the brown bag lunch choice is going to be slowly squeezed out of the public school system. From banning homemade lunches to inviting government in to decide on our children's lunch choices, the school lunch program has faced some unwanted attention. Since very often, it is all or nothing in our country - it is not a stretch of imagination to think that banning lunches from home will soon be a reality.
It will be interesting to see how this story will develop. As a homeschooling mother of 5, it may seem that we will be unaffected, but I often prepare lunches ahead of time on school days, to take advantage of the portability and organization that it offers. Food safety is a concern of mine as well. The problem is keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. For us, that means not packing delicate things that need to stay below room temperature, and of course keeping our lunches in a cool location until it is time to eat. Here are some ideas for keeping your child's lunch safe.
*Find out how your child's lunch will be stored. Some schools have refrigeration, while in other schools, the locker is all there is.
*Invest in a good lunchbox. Find one that is insulated and sturdy. Pack foods in appropriate containers, use insulated thermoses for hot soups or cold salads.
*Add a cold pack or two, and have all cold food chilled and hot food steaming, before packing the lunch.
*If your child's school doesn't offer cold storage for lunches, choose foods that are not especially fragile. Fruits and veggies, different types of crackers and breads, for dipping and shelf stable dips are a safe bet.
*Pack leftovers that are fresh and have been chilled properly.
Remember that scary news stories make for great reading. Use common sense when packing your children's lunches and remember to treat your child's lunch with the same care that you do their meals at home.