When preparing lunches and snacks for kids to take to summer camp, I’ve been working to make a conscious effort to ensure that perishable food contents stay cold until lunchtime. Most camps don’t provide refrigeration for their campers, so packed lunches are often left outside in the heat for long periods of time. Harmful bacteria multiply in warm temperatures, thereby increasing the risk of food spoilage and food poisoning.
Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years that come in handy:
- Soft insulated lunch bags are the best choice for keeping foods cold.
- Include a small, frozen gel pack in the lunch bag.
- Fill your child’s water bottle with water and put it in the freezer first thing in the a.m. Do not leave water bottles in the freezer overnight, as they can expand and crack.
- Include a frozen drink box in the lunch bag. This will help keep their lunch cold longer and the drink will be cold and refreshing when they need it.
- Reduce the use of disposable wraps by using reusable containers for sandwiches, snacks or desserts.
- Prepare lunch ahead of time to allow it to cool completely in the refrigerator before packing it in the lunch bag.
- Freezing sandwiches can help them stay cool as well (leave out lettuce, cucumber or tomato).
- Try and pack as many non-perishable food items as possible—breads, crackers, whole fruit, vegetables, cookies, jam.
- Pack everything in the bag tightly to help keep it cold longer.
- Add “Empty Your Lunch Bag” to your kids’ list of responsibilities.
- To prevent bacteria from growing, wash out lunch bags completely with warm soapy water after each use.
- Throw out any leftover or uneaten perishable food items.
- Discard all food packaging (re-sealable bags, plastic wrap) and do not reuse it. Food poisoning isn’t something you want to take chances with.
If you are looking for some great lunch ideas, take a look at one of our archived lunch articles.
What did you pack in your child’s lunch today?
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