Lunchtime Learning Needed

Discussion
Aug 26, 2011

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.

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?

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6 Comments on "Lunchtime Learning Needed"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

The lunchboxes my family uses all have pouches for ice packs, which we use every day. Retailers can help educate consumers about safe food storage and handling, but I don’t see this as a big profit opportunity.

Tim Cote
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I wonder how my classmates and I survived growing up.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Lunchables, packaged snacks, power/health bars, ultra-pasteurized-non-refrigerated milk, juice boxes, bottled water, packaged nuts, thermal lunch boxes/bags, reusable cooling elements and more options. Plenty of options available today for the thinking parent but if it tastes good and is fast to pack there is always opportunity to help the frazzled parent deliver a better meal to their children.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Another non-isssue to not worry about. But I think “beavertontim” and I should join other members of RW for a moment of silence in memory of the millions…thousands…well the possibility that someone, somewhere is no longer with us because their PBJ sat at room temperature for a few hours.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 8 months ago
In a brand-new, four-year, experimental high school in Kansas in the early 60s, we had the best lunches ever. (The experimental part was taking all the best teachers from the area, carpeted everything in a beautiful new air-conditioned complex, and a non-graded system that assembled academic classes based on test scores only. Freshmen with Seniors, etc., based only on ability. My personal coming of age.) But back to the lunches. The school was located in a fairly rural community, underscored by the fact that we had a two-week vacation in the Fall so farm kids could go home to help with harvest. Although I was the son of the boys’ Guidance Counselor, I also earned a few bucks working in the fields to add to my stash from lifeguarding all summer. We had a huge, totally-blinged-out, from-scratch kitchen that made the best yeast rolls you ever ate – the kind with the three-section “clover” tops. You know what I’m talking about. Anyhow, lunches were free and all-you-could-eat. The food was fantastic, guided by a certified… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 8 months ago

Retailers can promote consumer education on safe food handling and become supporters of the Partnership for Food Safety Education which provides numerous materials. Retailers can also promote insulated lunch boxes, gel packs, and shelf stable, healthy foods for lunches throughout the year.

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