As if we needed another thing to worry about as we prep our kids for back to school, scientists are scaring the pants off parents today. It turns out 9 out of 10 lunches packed at home by mom are unsafe to eat by the time kids are ready to chow down. Temperature tests on more than 700 lunches showed only 2 percent of the perishable items were cool enough to be considered "safe to eat." So much for: if I make it, I know it's good for them, huh?
I'm going to be honest. I'm a die-hard lunch packing mama, and this little study shook me to the core.
I've never let my daughter buy the school lunch. Don't worry; I'm not looking for a pat on the back here. Buying the occasional school lunch is hardly a crime. But my memories of grilled cheese sandwiches made with mayonnaise (blech) and the taco days when we grabbed as many little cups of cheese as we could (completely ignoring all the veggies) are too fresh for me to put faith in my soon-to-be first grader getting good eats at the cafeteria.
Not to mention: the school lunch menu tends to leave me underwhelmed. How about some starch with that heaping helping of starch? How about purchasing some produce outside of the potato family? Some of these lunch ladies might be trying, but there's a reason the school lunch gets such a bad rap. At so many schools, the eats are just plain inedible.
So making meals at home has always made me feel pretty good about my parenting. She gets something that tastes good and is healthy! Win/win!
In fact, it's such a win, that after a whole year of packing lunch and nary an upset tummy, I'm going to use this study as a guideline ... but I'm not going to stop packing. For one thing, the University of Texas scientists say the temps are unsafe, but there were no real reports of food-borne illness. And I'd prefer my daughter get a well balanced meal from me instead of a hearty helping of carbs and preservatives from the school.
I already pack her lunch in an insulated lunchbag rather than a paper sack. I already include a cold ice pack. And if I'm sending her with a juicebox, I freeze it the night before so it will keep the food cold (by lunchtime it's thawed enough to drink). I also tend to fill her stainless steel (BPA-free!) bottle with water rather than milk (she gets enough dairy at home to fill her calcium requirements, and kids should develop a water habit). I avoid mayonnaise, and anything that comes home after a day in her backpack is thrown out (or composted) rather than being served up again.
What do you do to keep your kids' food safe? Will this study change your back-to-school procedure?
Image via DC Central Kitchen/Flickr