Pack a Safe School Lunch

Food - Fact Sheet - Peachy bpPacking a safe lunch can be easily forgotten as kids rush to be at school on time. Most foodborne illnesses that happen in schools are not from the school cafeteria, but from food brought from home or other sources. The DuPage County Health Department offers some food safety tips when packing a safe lunch:

  • Keep everything clean when making and packing school lunches. Wash hands, food preparation surfaces, utensils, and kitchen counters with hot, soapy water to rid them of germs.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Food - Fact Sheet - Safe LunchAn insulated lunch box or bag is preferred, but a double-bagged paper bag can also be used. By double bagging, the cold is kept inside for a longer time and also the bag will not become soggy.
  • Use a cold source in the insulated lunch box or bag. An example of a cold source could be a freezer gel pack or a frozen juice box. Pack perishables, including deli meats, poultry or egg sandwiches, next to the cold source.
  • Keep lunch boxes and bags away from heat sources, such as direct sunlight or room radiators.
  • In addition to keeping perishable foods cold, hot foods, such as soup, chili or stew, should be kept piping hot in an insulated bottle. Add hot water to the insulated bottle, let stand for a few minutes, then empty and fill with the hot food.
  • Discard any perishable leftovers.
  • If you make school lunches ahead of time, for example, the night before, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use them.

For more information on packing safe lunches for school (and work, too!), call the DuPage County Health Department, Environmental Health Services, at (630) 682-7979, ext. 7046. For further food safety education see Peachy Keen's Food Safety in the Home.