Lunchtime Learning Needed
Back to school discussions usually revolve around clothes and implements for learning. One lesson more recently under discussion is lunch — whether to send it from home or rely on low-budget, but well-meaning cafeterias.
Concerned parents may have read reports recently from the University of Texas about the poor conditions in which packed lunches are kept. The challenge, then, is ensuring lunchboxes remain healthy — and safe — from the time they are packed until they are consumed.
With more schools conscious of nutritional guidelines and parental preference for healthy meals, retailers may need to shift their approach to maintain their share of the market. Cheap, mass-produced factory food is on the way out in many schools, reports the New York Times.
The more schools reinforce the healthy eating message, the more parents are likely to look at all the options, including encouraging schools to take better care of lunches sent from home.
Based on visits to "nine pre-school child care centers on three occasions, measuring the temperatures of hundreds of sandwiches, yogurts and other perishables with a heat gun," the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported scientists’ findings. Having found the vast majority were not stored at sufficiently low temperatures, the study stressed the high risk of food-poisoning bacteria thriving. E.coli, salmonella and staphylococcus aureus were all cited as possibilities.
Although there is no direct way of linking packed lunches to a specific proportion of annual food poisoning cases, the study was described as an "eye-opener for the public" by Fawaz Almansour, who led the research team from the University of Texas. Recommendations were offered for improvement, specifically that, "Education of parents and the public must be focused on methods of packing lunches that allow the food to remain in the safe temperature zone to prevent foodborne illness."
The opportunity for food retailers could be summarized as education, education, education — working with parents and schools to make sure that healthy, high quality, easy to assemble packed lunches leave the house and stay that way until the kids eat it.
- Schools Restore Fresh Cooking to the Cafeteria – The New York Times
- Fresh food revolution comes to Colorado schools – Colorado Independent
- Kids’ packed lunches too warm to be safe: study – Reuters
- The health risk packed in your lunchbox: most food brought from home "kept at unsafe temperatures" – Daily Mail
- New study finds bacteria in packed lunches could be affecting the health of young students – WPTV
Discussion Questions: Is there a profit opportunity for retailers to encourage safer, healthier lunchboxes? How can they turn what seems to be a health threat into an opportunity and get more parents on board?