Back To School-Gearing up for Lunch

One way to keep your child's lunch cool is with an insulated lunch box or bag and a frozen gel pack and/or juice box. Today, everything from the bags to the water bottles is super insulated and rated so you know how long your juice will remain chilled.

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle, or back in the car for those of us shuttling students to and from school.

The new school year means it’s back to packing lunches and after school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One “back” you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is harmful bacteria in food.

Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels.

To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, here are few tips:

Before beginning to pack lunches, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.

If the lunch or snack contains perishable food items like lunch meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.

Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.

Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.

If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating. After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging and paper bags.

Soft Granola Bars

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup raisins or chopped dates
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 15-1/2-by-10-1/2-inch jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, vegetable oil and eggs, stirring until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients, except honey.

Spread into the prepared pan. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until done. Cool.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm honey until heated through, stirring constantly. Drizzle honey on top of granola bars.

Makes 21 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories, 12 g fat, 105 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber.

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at Visit the Hall County website at

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