What to Pack in Lunchboxes?

Fresh apples from the farmers market

Many schools are set to reopen this month. And for many parents and their children, it's been an anxiety producing time. I remember going to Great Eastern Mills in Elmont, New York with Mom to get school supplies which included a new lunchbox. Back in the day my sister and I carried lunch in small metal boxes which included a frozen Scotch ice container to keep our lunch chilled (since we commuted long distances to and from school).

Interesting bit of history about the metal lunchbox: 

The first metal lunchbox produced was the Hopalong Cassidy created by the Aladdin Company of Nashville in 1950. They made a blue and a red lunchbox with a four-inch decal on the front side. The profits from the new lunchboxes enabled Aladdin to build a new lunch box manufacturing plant. Their second lunch box design was the decaled Tom Corbett Space Cadet box made in 1952. The American Thermos Company introduced the first lithographed lunchbox in 1953, it had a Roy Rogers design. The Aladdin company then changed their lunchboxes to being fully lithographed instead of using decals, in 1954.

Metal lunchboxes were banned in the early 1970s, as a result of a campaign of "concerned" Florida mothers against the steel lunchboxes. Children being children, were using the metal lunchboxes as a type of weapon, cases of permanent head injuries were being reported. The state of Florida banned the sales of metal lunchboxes in 1972, and other states soon followed in the banning. Box makers switched from metal boxes to softer plastic boxes. The last steel metal lunchbox was a Slyvester Stalone's Rambo model, produced by KST in 1985.



Although I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, a home packed lunch made my day a little better. On school trip days, Mom always prepared "special" lunches like ham and cheese on deli rolls, a piece of fruit and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Retro metal lunchbox When I started working, I couldn't wait to eat lunch out. My sister and I would meet at a local coffee shop or department store cafe counter for lunch. We loved the restaurants at Lord & Taylor, B. Altman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. Our favorite coffee shop was Chock Full O'Nuts because it offered date nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches and their signature coffee.

I worked in an office that mandated coffee breaks and I was schooled by the other office mates in hightailing it down to the coffee shop to take my scheduled morning and afternoon breaks. The waitresses knew we only had 15 minutes so the moment they saw us coming through the doors, they had already placed our coffee cups on the counter!

Over the years my children packed their lunches because they were always hungry. This was the impetus for making granola. Their paper lunch sacks contained sandwiches (often more than one), dried and fresh fruit, string cheese, hummus, yogurt and veggies, applesauce, cookies or crackers and bottles of water. Moms tip: pack what I know they’d eat, rather than what I hoped they’d eat.

They packed granola in large ziplock bags which were handily tucked into their backpacks--this was for snacking throughout the day and for after school sports practices. And despite carrying food, I'm convinced they still bought stuff from the school cafeteria! 

Need inspiration for school lunches? Here’s some ideas for lunchboxes for the kiddos. 

 Healthy Snack Ideas for Lunch

Sandwich free lunch ideas


Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and lifestyle company.

Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses.

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