As back to school season approaches, parents have a multitude of tasks to tackle, and one of the most important is ensuring the safety of the food their children take to school. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's easy to overlook the important steps of proper food handling and storage. In this blog post, we’ll explore some essential tips for parents to ensure the safety of their child’s school lunches and snacks.

Plan thoroughly

Begin by considering what meal and snacks you’ll be sending your child with to school. This includes choosing appropriate foods, considering their nutritional value, and considering your child’s preferences. Try not to include items like mayonnaise-based salads, creamy dips, and raw or undercooked meats, as these can quickly become breeding grounds for bad bacteria. Instead, pick foods that can be consumed at room temperature without posing a food safety risk, such as peanut or sunflower seed butters, whole fruit versus pre-cut fruit.

Maintain cleanliness

Cleanliness is extremely important in ensuring food safety. Before handling any food, make sure your hands are washed thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use clean cutting boards and utensils for preparing foods, and clean any surfaces that come into contact with food. Regularly sanitize lunch boxes and containers to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. Click here for detailed sanitizing instructions.

Temperature control

Use insulated lunch boxes with cold packs such as frozen water bottles to keep perishable foods like sandwiches, yogurt, and cheese cold until lunchtime. Dairy such as yogurts and milk can be left at room temperature for no longer than two hours before starting to spoil and become dangerous, so be sure to pack extra cold sources. Hot foods should be kept in a thermos to maintain their temperature and flavor.

Allergen safety

This chart from the FDA is a visual representation of the 9 major food allergy containing foods.

If your child has allergies, it is critical to educate them about the importance of avoiding foods that can trigger an allergic reaction. Remember to label your child's lunch with clear allergen information, and remind them not to share food with others to prevent contamination or cause another child to have a reaction. Additionally, if your child has allergies, inform   their teachers and school staff about their specific allergies to ensure a safe eating environment. Here in the United States we have 9 major allergens (see image).


Continue to  teach your children the importance of proper hand hygiene around meal time, and any other time hands can get dirty. Teach your children the importance of rubbing and scrubbing  their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and thoroughly drying them  before handling any food items. Encourage them to practice this habit both at home and school to minimize the risk of transferring germs. Provide hand sanitizers in their lunchboxes for an extra layer of protection, but ensure they understand that these sanitizers are not a substitute for proper handwashing.


As a parent, the top priority is always the health and well-being of your children. By following these guidelines for safe food handling, you can ensure that the meals and snacks you provide for your kids are free from potential risks. 


Celebrate National Food Safety Month All September Long!

Partnership for Food Safety Education



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