It is a strange concept that packaged, processed convenience lunch foods which are eaten in minutes leave a trail of waste that lasts for centuries. These plastic wrapped delights targeted at schoolchildren’s mealtimes are intended to save time in preparation but in the long run they are harmful to the environment and your child’s health.
With some careful planning it is possible to plan your child’s lunch without damaging the planet.
Make your Own
Banish processed snacks and replace them with homemade meals that nourish, fill up an empty tummy and keep it running all day. Preparing lunches the night before gives you the time to come up with a healthy, balanced meal for your kids and saves the last-minute panic first thing in the morning.
Our attitude towards packaging is at the cornerstone of sustainable living and the traditional packed lunch is a prime target. There’s no need for single-use plastic sandwich bags when you can opt for a waxed fabric sandwich bag or a washable wrap.
From reusable boxes to stainless steel tiffin tins, there are loads of environmentally conscious choices to keep your food, warm, cool or fresh.
Take your Own Bottle
From juice boxes to plastic drinks bottles, disposable containers are a major contributor to the global plastic waste crisis. Recycle wherever you can but try a more eco-friendly refillable container. There are great designs available in glass and steel that will encourage your child to use them.
Think Global, Act Local
Using seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally cuts out unnecessary air miles which seriously impact on your carbon footprint. Buying locally grown produce supports and encourages sustainable farming practices that are cost-effective.
Eating seasonally prevents your child becoming bored with their daily diet by providing a continuing variety of ingredients all year round while promoting a healthy respect for food and its growing environment.
Cut Down on Meat and Dairy
Meat, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products tend to have a higher environmental footprint than plant-based foods due to intensive farming methods. Consider sending your kids out with at least one vegan lunch per week. You can offer salads and spreads that are healthy and filling while mixing the menu with hummus wraps, bean stews and flasks of warm winter soup.
Compost your Food Scraps
Encourage your kids to compost their organic waste by bringing home their apple cores and vegetable scraps. If your school has no compost heap then put the pressure on to get one started. It’s a great excuse to educate students about the issue of food waste. All those teabags in the staffroom have to go somewhere.
Last night’s dinner can be easily dished up again for a tasty lunch. Add extra beans or vegetables to a stew, warm it through and send it off to school in a thermos flask. Served with crusty bread, this is a welcome Winter treat.
Ask your Child
So often a school lunch returns home uneaten. When you ask your child about what happened at lunch time, they will inform you that they weren’t hungry or the football match went on too long at break time. What they won’t say, possibly for fear of causing offence, is that they didn’t like it, that they’ve never liked that kind of sandwich or that they’ve become bored with the same old thing.
It’s a good idea to ask your child what they would like for lunch (within reason), how often they want it and to check in once in a while to see if their tastes or current playground trends have changed.
Taking time to plan and prepare your child’s school lunch will pay off in the long run, offering a chance to experience quality food without added sugar, salt and flavourings. If we take a moment to reconsider its uses, plastic packaging can become a thing of the past instead of a blight on our children’s’ future.
One more thing, if you are sending them out with proper meals – don’t forget the cutlery!