NOTE TO OUR READERS
Follow these tips from the Oklahoma State Department of Health to keep the school lunches you pack safe for your kids.
Packing a healthy school lunch is just one of the many things on the minds of parents as the new school year begins. During the morning rush, the safety of that packed lunch can easily be overlooked. Public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) want to remind parents that it’s important to practice food safety when preparing a lunch to send to school.
OSDH recommends the following tips to keep your healthy lunch a safe lunch:
- Keep everything clean when packing the lunch.
- Use an insulated lunch box with freezer gel packs to help keep cold foods cold.
- Use a thermos to keep soup, chili and stew hot. Use an insulated bottle stored in an insulated lunch box.
- Pack shelf-stable foods, such as crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, canned meats, packaged pudding, and canned fruits and juices, especially if you have a brown paper bag lunch.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water and blot dry with a paper towel before packing, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
- Keep your lunch in the coolest place possible! Lunch kept in the refrigerator is best, but if one is not available keep it out of the sun and away from heat.
- Discard perishable leftovers after lunch. Pack non-perishable food items for an afternoon snack.
- Wash your hands! Make sure kids wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating lunch.
The good news is that a healthy lunch is usually also a safe lunch. “The risk with a packed lunch is that food such as milk, meats and cheese may grow bacteria if exposed to unclean food preparation practices followed by several hours in an improperly cooled lunch bag,” said OSDH Consumer Health Director Shonia Hall.
Most fruits and vegetables do not spoil at room temperature and low-fat milk is available in boxes that don’t need refrigeration until opened. There are many healthy choices that are easily included in a packed lunch. Remember to start clean, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot through the lunch period.