I've a few years of practice with allergy friendly school lunch boxes now, and have written a few posts about them. I wanted to take a minute to re-visit some of those thoughts here, for those of you who have not memorized the content of my other posts. (I know you have loads of extra time to do such things!)
The down and dirty on packing a lunchbox for allergic kids:
1) If you have an allergen free lunch table make sure to find out if it works a second job. Moonlighting as a snack table at a Scout meeting is not unheard of, nor is hosting the PTA president, attending after school care as an art table, and various other encounters that may smudge that table's allergy free responsibilities. Often cafeterias are used for more than just lunch, so find out what happens to the table during those times. Can it be pushed aside, blocked off, covered up, or cleaned afterwards to avoid lingering residue?
2) Find out how the allergen free table is cleaned. Is it first, before the other tables? This way contamination is not spread from other tables to yours via a contaminated cloth. Or, even better, does it have a separate cloth and bucket for cleaning? Is bath time only after meals, or does it clean up prior to lunch also?
3) Make sure your little darling can open everything in their lunch box without help. Often the little ones are to shy to ask for help, so skip eating that part. More often the helper has already opened a yogurt, two applesauce cups, and a packet of peanuts that the other munchkins in the room couldn't open. There is no hand washing between helping kids, so it is possible that the helper may actually be a source of contamination!
4) In the beginning have your kiddo bring everything home. Even the trash. This way you get a realistic idea of what is being eaten. Why pack more than that belly has the time or interest in eating?
5) Take the lunchbox on a test drive. Can your child easily open it and take things in and out? My little one had trouble with the darling princess lunchbox she selected as it was designed to function like a paper bag. To hard to get to her food without taking everything out. We found the lunch boxes where the top zips all the way open make it easier to get to what she wants, and provide a surface to eat over. (Because food that hits the table is off limits.)
Those are my top 5 lunchbox hints for getting started. Feel free to cruise for more ideas by reviewing my other lunchbox posts!