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Now that the kids are back in school, and you suddenly have to get everything prepared for the day, your nights and weekday mornings are probably a little more hectic. But keeping your child's lunch safe should never be compromised. A poorly packed lunch could lead to foodborne illness, which is more common than you think. In fact, each year one in six Americans will have foodborne illness, and because their immune systems are still developing, children are more at risk than healthy adults.

On those occasions where your child does not want the school's hot lunch, a lunch from home must be brought. Washing your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before packing the lunch is essential to keeping food safe. It's also a good practice to rinse all produce before packing, even those with peels or rinds you don't consume because bacteria could transfer from the rind to the flesh. To keep perishable foods cold, such as meats and yogurt, use at least two freezer packs in the lunch bag. This will help ensure cold temperatures for a longer period of time so that bacteria won't multiply and cause illness. A frozen ice water bottle can be used as one of the cold packs and by lunchtime, the water should be thawed and ready to drink.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), insulated soft-sided lunch boxes or bags work best at keeping cold food cold. Avoid paper bags, which don't hold cool temperatures for very long. Try to pack only the amount that your child needs to avoid any leftovers, and instruct him or her to throw away what is left since it's unlikely it will be able to stay cold enough to be stay safe for the rest of the day. Also, don't reuse disposable packaging such as plastic baggies or aluminum foil, because it could contaminate other food and cause illness. Washable containers are a great purchase that can easily be washed and reused for safe packaging.

If packing a hot lunch, such as soup, use an insulated container and fill it with boiling water first. Let it stand for a few minutes, and then empty the water and add the hot food. As long as the lid is tightly closed, it should keep it hot until lunch time. Nothing's more important than the safety and health of your kids!

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip Printable PDF


¾ cup canned pumpkin

¾ cup peanut butter

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix peanut butter and brown sugar. Add vanilla and pumpkin and stir until well blended. Spread it on graham crackers, apple slices, celery sticks or baby carrots. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 20 servings, 2 Tablespoons each


Nutritional analysis per serving: 70 Calories, 5 grams fat, 4 grams total carbohydrate, 45 milligrams sodium, 3 grams protein, 1 gram fiber