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Cold lunches: The more things change, the more they remain the same

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 20, 2010
— Let’s review some historical cold lunch concepts:

Cold lunch bliss: A Fluffinutter sandwich—peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff on squashy white bread.


Cold lunch dorkiness: Using a full-sized paper grocery bag because your mom was out of lunch bags.


Cold lunch nightmare: “Natural” peanut butter on indestructible homemade wheat bread.


Times have changed, and mostly for the better.


Today’s cold lunch kids carry fruit roll-ups instead of those disgusting Red Delicious apples. They talk about eating “healthy snacks” and aren’t allowed to make flatulent noises with their empty waxed-cardboard milk cartons.


On a recent Thursday, students at St. Mary School displayed the latest trends in brown-bagging it.


Here’s the first difference: Kids know the hot lunch menu in advance.


When asked how many kids brown-bag it, St. Mary’s principal Julie Garvin said, “It depends on what they’re serving for hot lunch.”


Items such as chicken strips or pizza mean brown bags stay home.


Other items, such as garlic chicken with rice or chef salad with ham might actually be poisonous, and cause a spike in cold lunches.


Owen Teubert, 5, a kindergartner with a sweet face and a thoughtful expression, insisted he made his lunch himself.


No really, all by himself.


What does he like?


“Peanut butter,” Owen said.


And jelly?


“And jelly,” he said.


What’s his favorite?


Much cogitation. Prompting from Mrs. Garvin.


“A banana,” Owen said.


Carson Lee, 5, another kindergartner, sensibly prefers the hot lunch pizza to anything he can get from home.


In general, however, he’s a cold-lunch fan.


“I get to bring food I like,” Carson said.


Sometimes, Lee reported, his “mom makes lunch and dad makes dinner.”


Sawyer Sullivan, 8, understands the importance of a healthy lunch. His mother, Angie Sullivan, is a health educator at Edgerton Hospital.


“My mom tries to pack a good lunch,” Sullivan said.


That day, Sawyer’s lunch consisted of a ham sandwich, a juice box, yogurt covered raisins and a tiny bag of white corn chips.


“My mom sometimes comes to our science classes,” Sawyer said. “She has a tube that shows how much sugar is in a 12-ounce can of soda.”


His hot lunch favorites include grilled cheese and—let’s hope his mother doesn’t know—hot dogs.


Next to him, Brad Bowditch, 9, was enjoying a prepackaged Smucker’s “Uncrustable” peanut butter and jelly from home.


Sure, sure, cold lunch is good, but “Gondola” sandwiches from the Italian House are his favorites.


Throughout lunch, it appeared that this new generation of diners were more civilized than the Fluffinutter-generation.


Nobody launched hot lunch peas from their spoons.


At no time did the principal shout.


No one tried to steal Hostess products.


But suddenly, in the middle of all this reasonableness, came the fabulous noise made by a child squashing an empty milk carton.


Sandwiches may come and go, but milk carton noises are forever.


Cold Lunch Safety

Earlier this month, the UW Extension sent out its annual school lunch safety press release. The basics are all there: keep the cat off the kitchen counter, make your kids wash their hands, and most important, be sure to block off a good 12 hours for making lunch so you’ll have time to sanitize every available surface, including the orange and banana rinds.


Highlights include:


--Clean hands, food preparation surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water to remove bacteria. Keep pets away from food preparation areas. Children should wash their hands before eating or helping.


--Wash fruits and vegetables, including those with skins or rinds that are not eaten. Dry before packing. Keep cut fruits cold. Sliced peaches or bananas will benefit from dipping in lemon juice or sprinkling with a commercial anti-browning preparation to keep them looking good.


--For hot foods, fill an insulated bottle with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes. Empty bottle, then fill it with piping hot food. Discard leftovers.


--Add a frozen gel pac or a juice box to insulated lunch totes to keep perishable foods cold. Any leftover meat, poultry, egg or dairy products be discarded.


--For field trips, opt for non-perishable foods such as peanut butter or cheese sandwiches, crackers, or packaged pudding or fruit. A frozen juice box will serve as a disposable cold source.


-Don’t reuse plastic sandwich or bread bags. Bacteria can spread from one product to another, increasing the chance of spoilage or illness.



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