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A Guide to School Lunch

Some helpful tips for the upcoming school year.

With this amazing weather, it definitely isn't back to school time quite yet, but after your day out at the beach, after your walk home from work or before you get ready for your cookout, you might want to start thinking about school lunches. 

Whether your child brings their own or they get lunch at school, it is that time of year:  The choosing of the menu, the extra snacks and the food allergies.  If you plan ahead, it doesn't have to be a big deal come the first day of school.

For Arlington Public Schools, lunch menus are posted monthly and the September lunch menu will be available later this month.  Several forms are available now online.  The 2010 - 2011 application for "Free and Reduced Priced Lunch" is available for download.  There is also a detailed allergen list that includes nutritional information as well as allergens present in each item served. 

If you have any questions regarding the lunch programs the people to talk to are the Food Services co-directors Rob Rice (781-316-3641) and Denise Hunt Boucher at (781-316-3643).  To get in touch by email use the following address:  schoollunch@arlington.k12.ma.us .

If you are packing your own lunches, then let's begin at the beginning:  The lunch box.  When one thinks Isis Parenting, one tends to think about baby yoga, slings, pouches, baby carriers and toys.  In fact, it is a great place to go to get a lunch box and some reusable cups and containers.  If you are looking for BPA-free (definitely a good thing) then you won't have to weed through the plastics here.  The staff is extremely helpful and Isis has plenty of selection for pre-schoolers and school-age children.  

Balich 5 & 10 has a few lunch boxes and back to school treasures.  If you want cute and functional, then head to the Maxima Center.  You will be able to pick up some lunch boxes, read a book about school and get some back to school trinkets and treasures.  Henry Bear's Park is another spot that has a fun selection of lunch boxes, thermoses and water bottles.

So now you have the lunch box and in a few more weeks you are going to have to start filling it.  Have fun with your child making a list of their favorite fruits and veggies.  Make it a playful (not stressful) activity while you sit down to breakfast or lunch.  They could draw pictures of their favorite healthy foods one afternoon or maybe pick out some fruits and veggies from their play kitchen.  Once you have a list from them it will be much easier to shop and stock their lunch boxes with foods that will get eaten (within reason of course).

You still have plenty of weeks to head to the farmers' market once school starts to pick up some great fresh berries, apples, carrots, cucumbers and other snack foods fresh from the farm. 

If you can't make it to the farmers' market, then Boston Organics can deliver to you.  Their dogma box is all local.  This week there are apples from Vermont, Massachusetts corn, greens, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, kale, summer squash, cucumbers and lettuce and edamame from New York.  Delivery to Arlington (02474 and 02476) is on Wednesdays. 

For some great sandwich breads you can head to Quebrada and maybe every once in a while you'll have to pack a special treat from Lakota Bakery

A little handwritten note is always a nice surprise too.  For cute stationery stop byPlaytime, Maxima Center, or  Calico Design.  Calico Design will even let you make your own custom post it notes, which are perfect for the lunch box.

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