You’ve freshened up the kids’ wardrobes and shopped for new notebooks, but have you thought about what to pack in their lunch boxes once the school bell rings?
If not, you’re hardly the only one—it’s a job that perplexes even the experts. “Children are exposed to so much marketing from fast-food companies, especially in private schools that don’t have cafeterias,” says Taylor Clare, owner of local catering company Taylor Made Gourmet. “They see all the fun, colorful packaging that comes with these meals, and they lose interest in homemade options.”
While involved in a parent committee working to create a healthier meal program at her children’s school, Charleston Day, Clare decided to put to new use her Johnson & Wales education and stints in the kitchens of Charleston Place and Robert’s of Charleston. “In 2007, I started catering Charleston Day’s lunches from a mobile food cart,” she explains.
This lunch lady, who’s hard at work on a cookbook geared around family-meal planning, says that creative preparation is key to getting students interested in healthier fare. “Have the kids help you use cookie cutters to cut out a fruit salad, or chop up raw vegetables and let them divvy out their own mix,” she advises.
Her solution for the same-old sandwich? Stuff anything from deli meats and cheeses to last night’s barbecue inside pockets baked from frozen bread dough (available in grocery stores). “The sandwich’s shape appeals to kids and is a good way to introduce different vegetables and sauces,” says Clare. For extra flavor—plus dietary fiber, calcium, protein, and omega-3s—she often sprinkles nuts or seeds on the pockets before baking.
“You can thaw enough dough for the whole week and then each night make as many as you need for the following day. The scent of the sandwiches baking will get the kids excited for lunchtime.” For bonus points, employ their help in the kitchen—they’ll gain a sense of pride in their creation that’s sure to be fulfilling.