5 Tips for a Nontoxic School Lunch

5 Tips for a Nontoxic School Lunch

January 23, 2023


1. Choose Organic

Organic food is required to free of synthetic pesticide residues, growth hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified ingredients. 100 percent organic might not always be possible—due to budgets or lack of access. Make sure to at least pack organic for the produce that retains the most pesticide residue. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce for help. []

2. Go Unpackaged

To avoid artificial colors, flavors, extra sugars, and other additives, send kids off to school with unpackaged foods. Simple, unprocessed food is best for their developing bodies. This has the added benefit minimizing kids’ exposure to the various questionable chemicals found in food packaging. For the items you do want to buy prepackaged, always read ingredient lists. If you can’t pronounce something, it’s not likely found in nature.

3. Pack PVC-Free

Lunch boxes can be made from polyvinyl chloride aka PVC (plastic type #3), which can expose children to endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. A 2023 study found that 75% of tested back-to-school items had elevated levels of these dangerous chemicals. Vinyl can also contain lead, a potent neurotoxin. Seek out PVC-free lunch gear.

4. Choose Safe Containers

There are a number of chemicals found in plastic—containers, wraps, bottles—that have been linked to hormone disruption, obesity, cancer, and more. These chemicals, including BPA or bisphenol-A and phthalates, migrate out of the containers and into your kid’s food. Choose safer materials like shatterproof glass, stainless steel, and washable fabric or even beeswax reusable sandwich bags and wraps.

5. What’s In That Reusable Bottle?

Keeping well hydrated is critical for active young kids. Fill up stainless steel water bottles with filtered tap water. Avoid plastic bottles as well as lined metal bottles. Instead, choose stainless steel or shatterproof glass with a protective silicone sleeve.