Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Back-To-School Food Safety


Submitted by Vanetta Conn, CHES Family, Health & Well-Being Program Leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County

As kids head back to school, it is time to think about lunch box safety; keeping food safe is vitally important.

The four cornerstones of food safety apply to meals that we bring from home. Always remember to clean, separate, cook and chill.

As always, food safety begins at the point of purchase. Perishable foods should be last ones selected, immediately prior to paying and heading for home. Use insulated containers to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Never let anyone put raw meats next to ready-to-eat foods in the shopping bags or insulated containers. I keep separate insulated bags for raw meats from those I use for other foods that need to be kept cold.

Clean hands, countertops and cutting boards before preparing any food. Lunch boxes need to be washed daily with warm soapy water, rinsed and dried. If you use reusable containers to hold food inside the lunch box, they need to be properly cleaned between uses. Pack disposable hand wipes for use both before and after eating.

At least two sources should be used to keep foods cold. Frozen juices boxes or water bottles are one possible source and reusable freezer packs are another. The juice or water should be defrosted and ready to drink by lunchtime. Given that something frozen will be ready to use by lunchtime, it is important to remember that other foods that need to be kept cold should be disposed of if they return home in the lunchbox.

If prepared the night before store the lunchbox in the refrigerator with the lid open for air circulation. Add the cold sources just before leaving home. If possible, the lunchbox should be stored the same way after arriving at school.

Paper lunch bags or non-insulated lunchboxes do not keep food properly chilled so only non-perishable foods should be stored or transported in them. These are foods like peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, whole fruits or vegetables. Cut fruits and veggies need to be stored in an insulated container and properly chilled.

Store hot foods in an insulated container that has been preheated for a few minutes with boiling water. After emptying the water safely, add the piping hot foods to the container. It is important that the container remains closed until the child is ready to eat the hot food.

To learn more about food safety, visit or call our office at (518) 486-7403.


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