Make Back to School Lunches with Safety in Mind

If your children enjoy bringing their lunches to school, follow these simple ways to be sure that foods brought from home are safe to eat.

  1. You'll Need a Few Basic Items.  Invest in some basic tools for keeping foods safe.  Look for sales on insulated lunch bags or lunch boxes, insulated containers for keeping foods hot, and gel freezer packs to keep foods cold.
  2. Clean, Clean, Clean!  Before you start preparing lunches-to-go, wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.  Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops, too.  Keep family pets away from the food preparation area.
  3. No Contamination, Please!  Bacteria can spread to counters, cutting boards, and utensils.  Use one cutting board for meat and chicken, and another cutting board for fresh produce.
  4. Keep Cold Foods Cold!  Perishable foods (foods that need to be kept cold) include meat, chicken, and eggs.  Use two cold sources -- either two frozen gel packs or one frozen gel pack and a frozen beverage.  Place the cold sources under and above perishable foods to keep them cold.  If you pack lunches in the evening for the next day, store foods separately in the refrigerator and pack lunch bags in the morning.  Or keep packed lunches with the lid open in the refrigerator until your children leave for school.
  5. Keep Hot Foods Hot!  Fill insulated containers with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes.  Empty the water and then add the heated food.  Insulated containers are great for keeping foods like soup and chili hot.
  6. Lunchtime Cleanup.  Teach your children to throw away any leftovers and food packaging after lunch.
Even young children can help with making and packing lunches.  Find appropriate tasks that each child can do successfully.  Working together provides an opportunity for you to help your children develop cooking skills and learn safe food preparation practices.

For more information about food safety, visit: 
www.foodsafety.gov
www.fightbac.org/safe-food-handling/safety-in-all-seasons/129-bac-to-school-pack-a-safe-lunch-101
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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. The University of Maryland Extension will not discriminate against any person because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin, marital status, genetic information, political affiliation, and gender identity or expression. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more about Maryland’s Food Supplement Program (SNAP), contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-332-6347 or apply online at https://mydhrbenefits.dhr.state.md.us/.
© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall