Organic Lunch Goes Back to School

Organic Lunch Goes Back to School
by Debra Lynn Dadd

Thanks to Debra for this article. Go to her website for excellent information on many aspects of “less toxic living”.

In the middle of a long day of studying at school, your child needs a good nutritious lunch. Here’s how you can provide optimum nutrition, support your child’s health, and help the environment, too.

Lunch Boxes

If your child takes a lunch to school, the first question is: what to put it in?

While the traditional brown paper bag is made with recycled material, it’s better for the environment and your bank account to choose a reusable lunch bag or box.

The problem is, many lunch bags and boxes are made from vinyl, which often contains lead (tests show that some, but not all vinyl lunch bags contain lead, but it’s impossible to tell which without testing). When children carry these bags, lead gets on their hands and when they touch their food and eat it, lead gets in their mouths. Lead in the amount equal to one granule of sugar per day can cause children to have permanent neuropsychological defects and behavior disorders such as noticeable learning difficulties, poor scores on IQ and development tests, and short attention spans. So a vinyl lunch bag or box isn’t the best thing to send to school.

There are several good options. One is the cotton lunch bag with Velcro closures, even better would be a lunch bag made from organically-grown cotton. Then there are insulated bags made from recycled juice boxes. Both are available at They also have an ingenious sandwich wrapper made from cotton with a food-safe plastic liner. You just wrap the sandwich, secure the Velcro closure, and when opened, it becomes a placemat! As you reuse it, you will keep hundreds of plastic bags out of landfills and save money too. And they carry reusable bottles for water and other beverages.

If you prefer a metal lunchbox, these can be purchased at if you don’t find one locally.

Organic Lunch

It has been well documented that good nutrition contributes to good education. Children who get good nutrition have improved learning ability, attention and memory, better brain development and cognitive function, an improved sense of well being, and score better on standardized tests.

Organically grown foods are known to have more nutrients than foods grown by standard agricultural methods, and they do not contain harmful pesticides. Organically-grown foods taste better too!

Be creative when making school lunches for your children. The traditional PB&J can be made with organic peanut butter, sugar-free organic whole fruit spread, and whole grain bread. Include raw vegetables with a tasty dip. Get your kids involved in choosing and creating their own healthy lunches by giving them a variety of organic whole foods to taste and finding out what they like.

Washing Hands

Some schools are now asking parents to send hand sanitizer to school with their kids. The main ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol made from petrochemicals, so it’s not very natural.

And hand sanitizers aren’t as effective as they sound. Barbara Almanza, associate professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management at professor from Purdue University warns, “Waterless, antibacterial hand sanitizers are marketed as a way to ‘wash your hands’ when soap and water aren’t available, and they are especially popular among parents of small children. But research shows that they do not significantly reduce the overall amount of bacteria on the hands, and in some cases they may even increase it.”

I recommend tucking a small bar of natural soap in with the lunch and teaching your child to use it to wash his or her hands before eating. If you can’t find small bars, cut a “kid-size” slice off a large bar.

Help Your School Go Organic

Many schools across America are now going organic with their school lunch programs, and getting great support from students, parents, and local providers of organic food. If your child’s school doesn’t yet serve organic food for lunch, suggest they do. Search the internet for “organic school lunch” to learn what is being done in other communities.


Hailed as “The Queen of Green” by the New York Times, Debra Lynn Dadd has been a leading consumer advocate for products and lifestyle choices that are better for health and the environment since 1982. Visit her website to learn more about her book Home Safe Home, to sign up for her free email newsletters, and to browse 100s of links to 1000s of nontoxic, natural and earthwise products.

Copyright ©2007 Debra Lynn Dadd – all rights reserved.

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