Lunch Wrap Up: First Two Weeks of August

According to a study in Pediatrics,  90 percent of the perishable items in packed lunches (lunches sent from home to school) were kept at unsafe temperatures. The article goes on to state that the CDC says that perishable foods kept between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours are no longer safe to eat. Wow.

There is often no refrigeration for lunches that kids bring from home because there’s no place or money for fridges. Should schools start offering children a place to refrigerate their lunches? Is there a rampant bacteria issue in packed lunches? Thoughts?

Well, I see another argument in favor of changing school lunch! At least it’s not sitting in a warm classroom all morning!


A few weeks ago, my son and I visited a family friend who lives relatively close by (Hello! She reads the blog). Every year she grows a garden from her own saved seeds. Each summer she says we should stop by and get some produce from her garden. I never took her up on it before. But since I had my son with me when we visited, I decided to inquire about what she had growing. She took us back to go through the garden. She grabbed a couple small tomatoes, a big bunch of broccoli, a couple green beans, and a banana pepper. My son and I carried them back to the car and we drove home.

Back in our kitchen I asked my son, “What do you want for lunch?”

He looked at me and gestured wildly, “Broccoli and tomatoes!!” Like duh, Mom.

I was shocked. My kid likes cooked broccoli and tomato sauce on pasta, but raw? He never ate raw tomatoes or broccoli before.

So I got out a cutting board and sliced up one tomato. He proceeded to eat three slices of raw tomato.

Then he grabbed the broccoli and nibbled on it until it was gone. I barely got a bite.

People talk about how kids will eat what they grow, but I wondered if that was *really* true. I no longer question it. My kid will eat what he sees other people growing.

Light bulb moment!


Half gluten free pita bread, two eggs; nectarine cake; applesauce; broccoli slaw with cucumber stars (CSA); sliced strawberries 

The nectarine cake was a wonderful flop (no recipe to share – I just read a cookbook). I was trying for a nectarine/apple crumble, but it turned out cakelike. I don’t bake as much as I want to because I’m still learning about gluten free flours and when I do bake something sweet, I have a tendency to scarf it down. I have no willpower! Day care menu: Battered cod, pasta with alfredo sauce, peas, and diced peaches with two snacks of shredded cheddar and small frozen yogurt.


 Spiced rice; cabbage (CSA) and apple slaw; hummus and crackers; tilapia in a sweet chile sauce with onions (CSA); sliced cherries in a bag (Farmer’s market)

My husband made the rice Indian-style. He’s not Indian, but loves Indian food. Again, he’s just reading a recipe. My son avoided the rice, but ate everything else. Day care menu: cheese ravioli, bread, green beans, and pineapple with two snacks of banana pudding and hummus with crackers.


Half a pita bread; pumpkin seeds; tuna; applesauce; carrot sticks; bar 

What’s in the bag?


Hello apple slices! I asked my son if he wanted a sliced apple or sliced kiwi in his lunch and he said apple. Yeah, I know there are two apple products in his lunch, but what can you do. I instructed my son to put the tuna on the pita to eat it. Day care menu: Chicken and rice casserole, carrots, and applesauce with two snacks of string cheese and soy nut butter on crackers.


 Plum slices, cucumber shapes (CSA); Potatoes (Farmer’s market) and corn (CSA); rice vegan cheese and crackers; strawberry muffin (“You pick” farm); egg

Lots of finger foods here. I wanted to make it easy on the kid! Day care menu: Turkey on wheat, vegetable soup and bananas with two snacks of pumpkin bread and pretzels with cream cheese.


Rice with lamb; hummus; pita; pumpkin seeds, cucumber shapes (CSA); apple slices

The rice, lamb, and hummus were restaurant leftovers. We had overnight guests the previous night so it was so great to have a little shortcut when I was preparing his lunch that next morning! Day care menu: Diced ham, cheddar potatoes, baked beans, and apple slices with two snacks of an apple muffin and a lemon Italian ice.

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24 thoughts on “Lunch Wrap Up: First Two Weeks of August

  1. There is no way schools could afford to provide fridges for every student wanting to bring a lunch from home. Schools are already so tight on money. But I agree that’s a pretty good argument for improving school lunches. I know when I used to pack if something was too warm I just tossed it because I knew it wasn’t good anymore. 

  2. I have often worried about sending hot foods to school with my son due to the fact that I wonder will it stay hot enough. I sure don’t want to make him sick! I never sent any hot food to lunch, but I would really like to send some this year. Any recommendations on a good, quality thermos I could put soup, pastas, etc in?

    1. Well I have a “fuel” thermos I got on sale (I think it was getting discontinued), but thermos makes a lot of great products for soup. I’m sure Target has a lot to choose from.

    2. Well I have a “fuel” thermos I got on sale (I think it was getting discontinued), but thermos makes a lot of great products for soup. I’m sure Target has a lot to choose from.

  3. Properly packed in an insulated lunch box, with a small ice pack, a lunch will keep just fine. Milk or other beverages can be kept cold with the plastic reusable “ice cubes” that are often sold in kitchen specialty stores.

    That 2-hr time limit is an extreme CYA recommendation. Food, especially processed food, will often be safe much longer. Poorly cooked meats are the biggest possible exception, and that is partially due to the horrible conditions in many meat processing plants. If food was as unsafe as they imply, the human race would never have survived this long.

    1. I have to admit, I am pretty cavellier about this type of food safety. However, I rarely get sick. I regularly will throw a frozen meal that’s dethawed in my lunch box (next to the ice pack) back in the freezer, or put yogurt from that same lunchbox back in the fridge for another day. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but there is a body of science out there who will tell you that bacteria in your system is helpful.

      I do make sure meat is the proper temperature when i initially cook it, use antibacterial cleaning products to clean up after meat, eat grassfed as much as possible, etc to cut down on possible ecoli, salmonella, etc. Also, I do not have kids, so maybe I will be more concerned if/when I have them.

  4. Well, as a kid, I took my lunch to school for years and never once had food poisoning.  On the flip side, I got it from
    “fresh” roasted chicken at Albertson’s.  So go figure.  Also, in Europe, where I currently live, everything is displayed outside in counters with no refrigeration and guess what – no rampant food poisoning.  Just sayin.

  5. There are perishable foods that one must be careful with and there are “perishable” foods that will, improperly handled or subjected to extreme conditions, will go bad somewhat quickly but, in general, fruits and vegetables are not perishable when put in school (or work) lunches, nor are things liked cooked bacon, eggs, hummus, or hard cheeses. The CDC may say what they like but I have viewed such statements skeptically ever since I saw a list in the paper (I live in hurricane/tropical storm territory) of foods that needed to be thrown out if we lose power for a day that included pickles and hard cheese. How on earth do people think food was preserved prior to refrigeration?

  6. Yes, the study in Pediatrics made my husband very happy since he’s advocate of school lunch for my daughter and she really wants to buy daily these days. So I am now outnumbered in this argument against school food for lunch :0( oh well, I can only pick my battles and I know when I have been defeated. I will try to visit her at lunch so I cane poke my nose around and try to see how bad this food really is and take it from there

    Luckily my son’s nursery school has fridges, so I am safe with him for now.

    Love the lunches. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I keep hot food in a thermos, and don’t put an ice pack in for the other food. They have never been sick from their packed lunch. These recommendations will not change anything for our family.

  8. a)I’ve never in my life heard of dipping pretzels into cream cheese until I read your blog
    b)How do they eat the shredded cheddar cheese snack? Tiny shred by tiny shred? That sounds cumbersome.

    1. I don’t know how the daycare serves it, but I do know that my 3 year old nephew loves shredded cheddar cheese. Dad just grabs a bit & makes a little ball out of it. Easy as pie! (well cheese… lol)

  9. With all due respect, parents have sent unrefrigerated lunches for hundreds of years.  Despite this report, I think the kids will be alright. I am a teacher and I do not refrigerate my lunches during the day. My lunch is scheduled at 1:00 p.m. and my lunch leaves the fridge at 7:00 a.m.

    I am alive

  10. I saw that same study, but I’m not too worried. At my daughter’s elementary school, kids who brought lunch were required to leave their lunchboxes outside the classroom with their backpacks – not too bad in winter (though here in California, even the coldest winter day usually isn’t below 50 degrees) but on an 85-degree day in September, yuck! That said, she never got sick once in the seven years she took packed lunches to that school, even on the one or two occasions when I forgot to put in the ice pack. I remember my dad telling me how when his family went on car trips back in the 50s, my grandmother would make fried chicken and pack it in a shoebox to eat later, so I figure if they all survived that, probably a pb&j sandwich will be ok after a few hours in an insulated lunch bag.

    1. pb&j is one thing…lunchables are another.  Food poisoning is very real-been there, done that.  Maybe sixty years ago our bodies were different?  I mean, how many people had asthma or were lactose intolerant then? (Really, I don’t know.  I was a product of the ’80’s.)   Having said that, maybe the turkey and swiss sandwich would not make you sick after sitting in a lunchbox for five hours, but who really would enjoy a turkey-slime sandwich for lunch? 

      1. Well, I think we’ve still got to use common sense – include an ice pack or frozen drink, don’t put in things with ingredients like mayonnaise that are highly likely to go bad. I wouldn’t pack egg salad, for example, even though I took it to school myself many times without getting ill. I also wouldn’t save uneaten perishable food from one day’s lunch for the next day – if the yogurt or pudding or string cheese comes home, it goes in the trash, even if it’s still cool to the touch. But kids have been taking packed lunches to school for a long time, and I doubt its any less safe now than it ever was – probably more so, now that lunchboxes are like mini-coolers and not like the metal one I took to kindergarten in 1976. 🙂

  11. It has been my understanding that the “two-hour rule” is for foods that contain things like mayo, eggs, yogurt, etc. These are all foods that can go bad extremely quickly. When I was in school (and even now), I always threw in a small ice-pack with these types of foods to make sure they stayed cool. As some have pointed out, food poisoning can be, especially in small children, a very serious complication and should be treated as such. Taking a few extra seconds to make sure that food is properly stored can reduce the chance of these complications. Schools do not need to be providing fridges; parents who are concerned with their child’s health will take the appropriate precautions and those who are not probably do not take the time to make their child a perishable lunch anyway.

  12. I’ve sent homemade lunch with my son every day since he was 3 (he’s now 10).  I try to keep my kitchen and utensils clean, but I’m not hyper-careful — the two hour rule is definitely not something I’ve ever thought about.  I do send ice packs with sushi, but not with most other things.
    He’s never once had food poisoning.  I think this rule is just a little bit alarmist.

  13. It just seems so weird freezing my sons sandwich. I always use an insulated lunch bag and cold ice pack shaped like a soccer ball.

  14. I cringe everytime I see soy nut butter on the daycare menu.  Soy is a horrible thing to eat… especially young children. 

  15. I had a ‘Thermos’ brand insulated bowl for hot soups, Spaghettios, etc. when I was a kid and it worked beautifully.  Any good quality thermos should do.  My mom bought a stainless steel one at Starbucks that is supposed to be used for hot coffee.  I don’t know how long it keeps hot stuff hot, but I used it one July day to tote ice water to a convention.  Then I forgot to empty it that night.  There were still pieces of ice left in it the next day, so it was very good at keeping in the cold. 

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