Written August 22, 2018 by, Vanessa Cole

Sadly, summer and all it's free family time is coming to a close. For some, the routine of the school year is a welcome change from the open schedules of summer, for others a challenge to balance rigid schedules of here and there while keeping a mindful eye not to over-do the day. Although, I'd wager that EVERY PARENT OR CARETAKER will tell you the dreaded return of the WHAT TO PUT IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH dilemma is on their mind right about now!

We've decided to change our perspective on this sentiment and get organized to make prepping school lunches more of an experience of participating in our children's life and an opportunity to build their knowledge of the impact our food choices have on our lives as a whole. So, we are INCLUDING THEM in the lunch planning and prep process.... (we'll see how long that lasts)!


This year, our family is making TWO COMMITMENTS while planning our kids lunches:


Vintage Grocers Westlake Village, CA

1. Make food choices that are sustainable (& regenerative), this means selections that are organic, non-GMO and grown locally.

WHY? By making these food choices we contribute to regenerating and strengthening our food system. When families and communities value locally and regionally grown food sources it strengthens their food security. When families participate in creating these regenerative practices by supporting their local farmers & REFUSING to purchase food choices that don't value these guidelines, their purchase power changes practice for a BETTER food source.



2. COMMIT to ZERO WASTE for our kids school lunches (packaging and food waste).

WHY? According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, each typical school lunch contributes to 67 pounds of waste each school year. This averages about 19,000 pounds per year per average elementary school! And, food waste is an additional problem, so making sure our children LIKE what is in their lunch and will EAT IT (either at school or when they get home), is a goal. The Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter of the University of Minnesota states, " the school food waste produced in the U.S. EACH DAY would fill the Rose Bowl Stadium to the rim!"

The CALRecycle site offers many solutions for families to contribute to better waste practice so that we hand a healthy, regenerative planet down to our children. Better practice in our family and school lunch waste can contribute to many positive impacts for the world we hand down to our children, some, including:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gases
  • Reduction of landfill waste
  • Reduction of plastic pollution
  • Reduction of ecosystem disruption

Our AP Young Steward, Addyson offers some great solutions for communities on her Initiative #5 found on her Young Stewards Activation Page. Also, a federal review of the National School Lunch Program found that wasted food costs more than $600 million, plus an untold nutritional loss. (Environmental News Network, In School Cafeterias, Trash Piling High Despite Recycling Efforts, May 13, 2005, By Ben Feller, Associated Press.)



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We're talking to others in our community to make better practice the norm on our children's school campus with resources that offer SOLUTIONS THAT WORK. Oak Hills Elementary School in Ventura County has implemented an aggressive lunch waste reduction goal: zero-waste generation which can serve as a great example to others. Several years ago the school introduced the waste reduction or "zero-waste” policy during lunch and snack times and it has been going strong ever since. This program was also implemented throughout Oak Park Unified School District and has been included in its Waste Management and Environmental Purchasing Procedures (Oak Park District Board Policy 3511.2).


Oak Hills waste reduction policy contains the following guidelines that we felt will work for our goals:

  • Students who bring lunch or snacks to school will use only reusable containers or sacks.
  • All food in this container will be packaged in reusable containers.
  • Napkins must be cloth and reusable--no paper.
  • Students will not bring food to school that is packaged. Parents are encouraged to purchase food in larger quantities and then use reusable containers to send it to school.
  • Drinks must be in reusable containers or recyclable containers.
  • Acceptable recyclable containers include plastic with a recycling code of 1 or 2 on the bottom or aluminum cans.
  • No Glass. The preferable method is to send drinks to school in a Thermos or other container.
  • No straws are allowed.
  • Small box drink containers are prohibited.


What Re-Usable Packing Products are AWESOME?

AddyPresLifeSTYLE is a 1% for the Planet Nonprofit Partner.

We suggest the following products to meet your sustainable lunch packing goals:

StasherBag Reusable Silicone Bags

Stashers are amazing! They are made from premium platinum silicone, so you can bake, microwave, sous vide, boil and freeze in a Stasher! They replace the one use plastic baggie PERFECTLY!

Khala Cloths Wax Wraps

Khala Cloths take organic cotton-hemp blend fabric and infuse it with either beeswax or 100% plant-based waxes and oils, all with natural tree resin. Khala Cloths are hand-crafted and subtly unique, just like their custom, hand-drawn logo of bees pollinating the planet. And when you are done using a Khala Cloth wax wrap, they are washable, reusable, and biodegradable.


Klean Kanteen, doesn't just make bottles. They create solutions for social change, working hard to design durable, versatile, affordable products that replace mountains of single-use waste—and last a lifetime. Each reusable canister or bottle is made with the chip-resistant, durable Klean Coat finish that is designed with care to stand up to any inspired life.


To-Go Ware is committed to inspiring healthy lifestyle through food, community, and planet by providing products that are: Innovative, Safe, Environmentally Responsible, Affordable and Convenient. To-Go Ware  provides people with sustainable solutions and healthful alternatives to plastic waste & hopes to make the "throw-away" mentality a thing of the past assisting others to participate in the process of positive change by CHOOSING to REUSE.

Planet Box

PlanetBox is made out of non-toxic materials because the founders wanted a truly safe choice for their family and yours. Stainless steel works for foods – it’s safe, non-toxic, non-leaching, recyclable, and doesn’t pick up yucky food odors or stains like plastic does. And using a reusable lunchbox means creating a lot less trash – which helps the company's community sleep easier knowing they are doing their part to help the planet for future generations.


Answering the Question: WHAT DO I PUT IN MY KIDS LUNCHES?!

We've been exploring FOOD SELECTIONS that will intrigue our kids appetites when they open their reusable school lunch box. We've also talked to our kids about the importance of not throwing away uneaten food. WHAT TO DO INSTEAD? SAVE IT for an after school snack (for them or a hungry parent)!

PLANET BOX MEAL IDEAS appeal to our 11 year old son because they offered the standards he's used to and some more 'grown up' options for his middle school-er pallet.

INSTAGRAM MOM @PackMomPacks selections appeal to our 7 year old daughter. She loved the little youthful extras... the PRESENTATION of the food was a definite draw, good for their appetites a little more effort in the am for moms and dads who are prepping!

WEElicious is an EXCEPTIONAL resource for school lunches... and beyond!! The food expert, Catherine is the author the monthly “Snack Mom” column in Parenting Magazine, have appeared multiple times in People, Self and Real Simple magazines, on The Today Show, ABC’s The Chew, Access Hollywood Live, Good Morning America and Fox News as well as appearing regularly on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery and doing the occasional guest spot on Food Network’s Next Food Network Star and Duff Till Dawn. Her goal and hope with Weelicious is that it helps make your whole family’s mealtime easier, healthier and more fun!

Goop Magazine's Deconstructed Chicken Salad Rolls with Edamame are an awesome school lunch staple! We also switch up the veggies and add Trader Joe's Lavash Bread to roll this up! Originally featured in 3 Kid-Delighting (and Stealth-Healthy) School Lunches

For packing we LOVE our PLANET BOX because it keeps portion size in check and the layout inspires our kids to eat, SEEING ALL THAT'S IN THE LUNCH as soon as they open it up. I have a general rule of thumb: find their favorites,  GO ORGANIC, include the favorites regularly, don't use the school lunch to test new things and if your food selection comes from the earth with minimal (because our kids LOVE Trader Joe's sweet potato crackers!) or no processing YOU'RE GOOD!



As a family and community members, we value building our children's life skills now, so they understand that their contribution, commitment and participation within a larger scope can offer solutions for impact toward BETTER, and these efforts will improve the world they inherit with the pride of contributing! We can offer these simple, real world gifts to our children and it will empower them to participate in creating a BETTER world. What better reason is there? Make the commitment to go zero waste and regenerative organic with our family by taking the opportunities with your children's school lunch selections and waste reduction!!


We'd LOVE to hear your sustainable school lunch stories at home and in your community!! Please share your comments on this post or tag on our social media so we can share your story with our community! Please visit our AP Young Steward's page: Addyson, age 8. Her #5 initiative offers a great tool for activating your school community!

Share your story on IG @addypreslfstyle and #MYGREENSCHOOLYEAR