How to Pack a Safe & Satisfying School Lunch

by Food Safe Campaign (Ad Council, USDA, HHS)


  • 1-2 Ice packs for perishable foods
  • Juice boxes
  • Hand soap
  • Cutting board
  • Insulated, soft-sided lunch bag
  • Food containers and/or clear plastic bags
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    Determine if the lunch you're packing contains perishable food items. This can include cold cut meats, eggs and yogurt. Perishable items should be packed with freezer packs or otherwise chilled.

    Step 2

    Place freezer gel packs in the freezer the night before you pack lunch. Be sure to have at least two freezer gel packs per lunch you pack.

    Step 3

    Fun Fact! Frozen juice boxes can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze juice boxes overnight and use as freezer packs. By lunchtime, the juice should be thawed and ready to drink.

    Step 4

    Make sure you wash your hands, cutting boards and utensils for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water before handling foods. Following this step, thoroughly wash all produce as well.

    Step 5

    Pack lunches in an insulated, soft-sided lunch bag. Lunches with perishable food items can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in an old-fashioned brown paper bag.

    Step 6

    Pack your perishable items in your lunch bag. To begin, first open up your lunch bag and place frozen freezer pack on the bottom.

    Step 7

    Next, place your food containers on top of the freezer packs. Pack just the amount of food that can be eaten at lunchtime to avoid storage of leftovers after lunchtime without frozen freezer packs.

    Step 8

    After this, place a second freezer pack on top of your food containers. Zip the lunch bag up tight and send your child off to school with peace of mind.

    Step 9

    If there is a refrigerator at school, tell your child to keep their lunch inside with lid of lunch box or bag open. This allows the cold air to circulate and keep food cold.

    Step 10

    Instruct your child to wash their hands under soap and running water while counting to 20 before eating lunch.

    Step 11

    After school, discard all leftover food, used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause food borne illness.

    Step 12

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