By: Connie Rosemont (Only Organic)
For organic eaters, the hands-down toughest part of back-to-school planning can be creating lunches for your kids that continue the organic food goodness you’ve been serving them all summer.
Arming yourself with pictures and suggestions, you should be able to get a running start on the school lunch routine. Even better, ask your kids to plan with you: Share pictures and thoughts for menus, find out what they particularly like from the cafeteria. For instance, if they like yogurt, find out what sort of yogurt the school serves and maybe suggest that it offer an organic option.
Only Organic hosted a Twitter party last week with seven organic food companies and got some great ideas, which I share below. For more pictures, ideas and detailed information, check out these sites: Nature’s Path, Annie’s, Late July, Organic Valley, Earthbound Farm, Stonyfield Farm and Happy Family.
IDEA #1: ENGAGE THE KIDS
Kids are eager learners and most enjoy DIY participation in planning and preparation.
- Talk about what they like in their lunches and together think of creative ways to pack a lunch.
- Look at pictures together. Check out rockthelunchbox.com for great photos of lunches that your kids might want to help make. For little kids, try using a cookie cutter to make a dinosaur sandwich – how cool is that!
- Set aside a dedicated “only organic” space in the refrigerator. This creates a special zone that helps you explain to your kids the benefits of organic and makes it a place where they know there is something for them to grab and go.
- At the store: Help your kids understand what you’re looking for and why. Food matters, as does their health! Ask them to help you find the green and white USDA ORGANIC seal in every aisle, whether it’s yogurt or snack bars or lunch meat or mac-and-cheese.
- At the store: If you’re buying fruit, look for the little stickers. If it’s organic, the sticker number will begin with a “9”.
IDEA #2: USE THE WEB and GO BEYOND ORGANIC FOOD
The Internet is a fantastic resource. Simply type the word “organic” along with the item you’re looking for – tee shirts, clothing, bedding – and a host of websites will come up. Kids are particularly adroit at surfing the web and they might be your greatest resource if you’re looking for items not easily found at local shops.
- LUNCH BOXES: Stainless steel Bento boxes and tiffins are the “in” lunch containers as more parents look for non-plastic alternatives in order to avoid BPA (bisphenol A), an ingredient in many plastics and a known endocrine disrupter. These containers start at about $12.95 and go up from there, particularly if you look for wood options. There are also many cloth lunch bags available as well as the traditional brown paper bag (but don’t forget to tell your child to recycle!).
- WATER BOTTLES: Lots of non-plastic water bottles are available on the web. For example, Earthlust sells a 13-ounce bottle that’s a great size for elementary school kids and has an easy screw top that small hands can grasp and turn.
- ORGANIC BEDDING AND CLOTHING: Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment – without toxic and persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds. Again, there are many options online, especially for tee shirts, though it might take a bit of sleuthing to find styles that appeal to playful kids.
Why organic? The evidence is clear that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides and chemicals. Planning to keep organic in your kids’ lives while they’re away at school can take a little extra work, but there are loads of resources out there and stories to share.