Packing a Safe & Nutritious “Brown Bag” School Lunch for Your Child

Many parents are preparing so called “brown bag lunches” for their kids to take to school even though most food safety experts do not recommend actually using brown paper bags.

Unless you’re using things in your lunch that are totally non perishable.

You know, apples, peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, chips, things like that. This from Meredith Carruthers, a food safety expert with the Agriculture Department’s of meat and poultry hotline. She says even with a frozen gel pack and a brown paper bag, it’s not insulated.

And so the biggest concern is that those foods aren’t going to stay cold enough. And therefore bacteria that can cause foodborne illness are going to start multiplying potentially by time you go to eat your lunch, and then if you eat your lunch with that bacteria on it, that it started to grow, you can potentially get sick and that’s what we don’t want.

So try to use a good insulated lunchbox or bag with a frozen cold source. Meredith says with that as a starting point…

…you can pretty much take anything for lunch. You just have to make sure you’re storing it properly until you’re ready to eat it.

Keeping it below 40 degrees. Meredith says that needs to be done. Even if you’re taking leftovers things like leftover pizza, it’s got to be kept cold. So what about I got an idea? What about taking a chicken leg? You know, something like that freezing that using that item as the cold source in the lunchbox?

The main concern is that when that food starts to thaw, those foods will thaw from the outside in the outer layers of that food, any foodborne illness bacteria that might be present, start to get exposed to that air temperature and if it’s not below 40 degrees that bacteria can start to multiply, they can multiply to a point of creating toxins that are then heat resistant won’t be killed by re heating or if your child is eating that frozen food cold. It won’t be good and could potentially get them sick.

So keep that in mind. And also she says we might want to put into that lunchbox or bag some hand sanitizer or hand wipes so safety that’s one big consideration for that school lunch the other big one what foods to pack. Now years ago that used to be pretty easy maybe? Yeah, maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich chips and Apple cookie that was it. But these days when we’re trying to decide what to pack for our child’s lunch, there can be a whole list of things to consider, including cost of course and what he or she likes to eat and won’t throw out what’s convenient to pack in there and safe to pack.

But maybe number one on that list ought to be nutrition.

Now Kansas State University Extension food and nutrition expert Andy Proctor would key in on nutrition, providing the needed calories while also including vitamins, minerals, not too much fat. Considering the problems with obesity that many children have it’s a lot trickier job today to pack a good nutritious lunch.

The truth is nutrition really matters as we’re trying to help them achieve their best in school.

And so here are some things to consider when we parents pack that school lunch:

make it nutritious aim for one or two servings of a whole grain or some type of complex carbohydrate, two to three ounces of lean meat or protein and two servings of a fruit or fruit and vegetable and then that serving of dairy and if you can get all of those components in that brown bag lunch, you’re really going to add a strong push of nutrition into your child’s day.

So we parents have to be creative while also keying in on nutrition which Sandy Proctor says is more important than most of us think

it’s not fluff they need it. They’re gonna do a lot better on tests and all those things that we’re testing them on if they have some good sound nutrition

…which Sadie says is true. Not only for our kids, but for us too, as Google gets going for real this year. No, let’s not get carried away here. This has been agriculture USA I’m Gary Crawford heading for the principal’s office again. And reporting for the US Department. of agriculture.