It’s estimated that a family of four wastes on average $1,500 a year on food that goes uneaten. As kids go back to school, we wanted to share some easy tips you can use to reduce food waste in your child’s packed lunch.
- Get your child’s input on what they like. Avoid ‘wish packing’ foods that your child won’t eat at home as these foods will likely be discarded at school. If clementines and turkey wraps are his thing, pack those. It is challenging to find the sweet spot between good nutrition and your child’s preferences.
- Cut up fruits and veggies so they are easier to eat.
- Make lunch fun. For example, add dips for cut veggies, make meat or cheese pinwheels, and include dressing to add to a ‘shake and serve’ salad.
- Make sure to get the portions right for kids of different ages. USDA’s MyPlate provides simple to use nutrition guidelines for allocating portions among food groups, such as one quarter of the meal as lean protein (e.g., beans, fish, lean meats, and nuts), one quarter grains (preferably whole grain), and fruit and vegetables for the remaining half of the lunch.
- Aim for “zero-waste lunches” by using reusable water bottles, containers, and snack bags, compostable cutlery, and bento-style lunch boxes, which separate foods into different compartments to offer variety while providing portion control.
Always keep food safety in mind. Some practices can reduce both food safety risks and food waste, such as using insulated lunch bags or boxes to keep fresh foods fresh and including reusable cold packs.