Simple, Smart and Safe: Packing Healthy Lunches for Field Trips

Healthy Food Choices in Schools April 30, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

The excitement of a field trip shouldn’t be masked by what’s in the lunchbox.  Pack it Simple, Smart, and Safe so the real excitement comes from the actual field trip and not the adventure your child had after a sour stomach surfaced from an improperly packed lunch.

Research the field trip before your child goes:

  • Is it an indoor field trip with air conditioning or an outdoor field trip in the heat of the summer?
  • Will there be tables to sit at or will your child be having a picnic on a blanket in the park?
  • What kind of access will there be for your child to wash his or her hands? 

If you aren’t sure what the answers to these questions are, don’t assume there will be a refrigerator or a table or a sink, etc.  Pack your child’s lunch with these easy tips for keeping it Simple, Smart, and Safe. 

Simple:

  • Pack foods that don’t require assembly; crackers and cheese are hard to put together without a table and easier to make a mess with then an already put together sandwich.
  • Choose foods and wrapping that are disposable so they take up less room to pack.  During the field trip there will be lots of packed lunches for teachers and staff to tote around; the smaller and less cumbersome they are, the easier they are to transport.  Brown bags or plastic grocery bags without leftovers are one less item to transport home after the field trip. 

Smart:

  • If you are packing in paper bags, choose foods that will survive some squishing.  Crackers and chips may end up as crumbs, sandwiches can be flattened.  Try using pita bread or a wrap that can withstand close quarters.
  • Remember to pack a drink and add an extra drink if the outing requires children to be moving around a lot or they are in the heat.
  • Pack napkins and utensils as they may not be available.
  • Label the lunch with your child’s name and class or teacher’s name.

Safe:

  • Pack hand sanitizer and encourage your child to use it before they sit down to eat.  If there isn’t a place to wash hands this will be the best way to keep them clean.
  • If the teacher brings a cooler (and many do), it is very difficult to fill the cooler with lunchboxes and include ice.  Make sure your child’s lunchbox has the proper insulation and cooling packs.  This will ensure proper food safety measures so that the food stays cool and is safe to eat know matter what the temperature is outside of the lunchbox.  If a lunchbox is too big to bring, packing a lunch in a plastic re-sealable pack or grocery store bag will help save space.  Consider freezing a drink to help with cooling other foods.
  • When it comes to fruits and vegetables, remember that if they are pre-cut they need to be kept chilled so choosing a whole fruit or vegetable like an apple or an orange is a safer bet.

These are just a few tips to make your field trip successful at lunch time.  Keep it Simple, Smart, and Safe and your child will come back with stories about the field trip to share with you, and not stories about his or her upset stomach.


Contributors 

Vanessa Spero-Swingle, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Elizabeth Shephard, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

References

North Carolina Action for Healthy Kids, Pack it up; Snacks for Field Trips and Outings. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://teacher.haywood.k12.nc.us/hcscnp/files/2009/09/FieldTripSnacksFINAL1.pdf

FightBac.org, Packing Lunches at the Child-Care Center. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://fightbac.org/storage/documents/Childcare/Packing_Lunches_at_the_Child-Care_Center.pdf


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.