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Favorite lunches for kids


Franci
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I'm thinking of starting a business making fresh and delicious lunches for kids.

My children are not a good sample of the population. I realized that I don't really know what American children love to eat. I only read the cafeteria menu my son brings home for lunch and it's so far away from our standard way of eating.

Do you have any book to recommend?

 

I can write down some of the lunch menu for January for his school. It's from a PS in Brooklyn.

 

Entree: Zestry BBQ'd chicken and Buttermilk biscuit

Eat your colors: Red Roasted potatoes

 

Entree: Pizza Party

Eat your colors: Chickpea salad

 

Entree: Black bean Burrito

Eat your colors: Sweet Potato; Waffle fries

 

Entree: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Eat your colors: Super Hero Spinach

 

Entree: Kung Pao Chicken or Kung Pao Tofu: Hot Lo Mein

Eat your colors: Crispy Egg Roll; Duck Sauce

 

Entree: Spanich Chicken; Yellow Rice

Eat your colors: Souper Beans; Sweet Plantain

 

Entree: cheese Manicotti; Marinara Sauce

Eat your colors: Super Hero Spinach

 

...

Edited by Franci (log)
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Q: 

Are you planning to provide lunches for a school, where the staff will heat and serve?  Or you planning to make meals for kids to tote to school themselves?  

 

If it's the latter, you'll need to develop menus that don't require a lot of reheating or last minute cooking.  The grilled cheese sandwich on your sample menu is practically compulsory in school cafeterias, but I don't see how you can achieve a gooey toasty grilled cheese sandwich that's brought from home in a brown bag.  

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Q: 

  Or you planning to make meals for kids to tote to school themselves?  

 

If it's the latter, you'll need to develop menus that don't require a lot of reheating or last minute cooking. 

 

This 2nd case. For now it's just an idea, I need to do a serious business plan, luckily my husband has a solid finance background and it's very good on that aspect. 

Definitely I need to spend some time to research my options for containers to keep food within safety standards. Likely cold food is going to be preferred over to hot food.  

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Do you have a target age bracket in mind? Lunch totes for 1st- and 2nd-graders would differ from those for middle school or high school set.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I don't have a book to recommend, however, there have been several huge threads on eGullet about the topic. Bento I and Bento II, and Fat Guy's thread about kosher lunches.

 

I think the main thing is to find out what foods schools have banned (probably peanuts and peanut butter, plus tree nuts to start with) and work from there. Also, beware of anything that has a strong odor, kids will make fun of that.

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The Bento hype is a bit over the hill by now, I guess. But The Just Bento Cookbook came in quite convenient at my house. It's not for kids, but it's nice for building a tactic for portable lunches imo. She also has an informative website and has written a bit about containers as well. I have a few containers, like Systema, which is BPA free and has some models that come with a cooling element.
There are several books on making bento kawaii style, but I doubt if that's doable on a bigger scale business wise if you're working solo.
Commercially, vegan might be a nice USP. Jennifer McCann wrote 2 books on vegan kids lunchboxes, one 'regular' and one international. As she's American, I would expect her to know a bit what American kids would like and with your cooking style, I suspect just some inspiration on that part is more than enough to built a lovely repertoire on.

Edit: I looked up some other books I have on kids' lunches:

- Best Lunch Box Ever by Katie Sullivan Morford

- The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet by Laura Fuentes Her website is MOMables.com

- Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunchbox with more than 160 Happier Meals by Catherine McCord






 

Edited by CeeCee (log)
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Do you have a target age bracket in mind? Lunch totes for 1st- and 2nd-graders would differ from those for middle school or high school set.

 

Up to elementary school.

 

Franci - have you checked out Amanda Hesser's ongoing column at Food52 about her kid's lunches (in Brooklyn!) - http://food52.com/blog/12035-superfood-gold#QGKN7T:Ntr

 

This is very interesting. Her kids are not very picky :raz: My son really dislikes food mixed together. So I know the limitations of limited food options for lunch.

 

 

This is also interesting because we have a Jewish school next to my son PS.

 

 

I'll check them all.

Edited by Franci (log)
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NJ Monthly Magazine just ran this article online today:

 

http://njmonthly.com/blogs/soup-to-nuts/2015/1/12/a-better-school-lunch-made-by-moms.html?utm_source=New+Jersey+Monthly&utm_campaign=1f8dbf757b-Side_Dish_issue286&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_206acb9213-1f8dbf757b-72348969&ct=t(Side_Dish_Issue_286)

 

A Mom in Northern New Jersey decided to start a business making healthier lunches available by subscription.

Edited by BeeZee (log)

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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My American friend's daughter is the popular girl in school and she uses her powers for  good or should we say weird.  She manage to make it popular to eat vegetables and fruit instead of candy and chips. The cool kids drinks water with lemon or cucumber in it  not soda and also do yoga,  She is aiming for president as adult.. 

Here in Sweden   age 1½- 16 is the same food, since we dont really have kids or adult food here and also no ban on knifes and forks in schools as some American schools have ( not all but some).

 

I think Nicola Graimes has  good cookbook, I am not 100% of the name but  my friend with the popular kid has given me  some good recipes from  chef called Nicola.

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Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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My American friend's daughter is the popular girl in school and she uses her powers for  good or should we say weird.  She manage to make it popular to eat vegetables and fruit instead of candy and chips. The cool kids drinks water with lemon or cucumber in it  not soda and also do yoga,  She is aiming for president as adult.. 

Here in Sweden   age 1½- 16 is the same food, since we dont really have kids or adult food here and also no ban on knifes and forks in schools as some American schools have ( not all but some).

 

I think Nicola Graimes has  good cookbook, I am not 100% of the name but  my friend with the popular kid has given me  some good recipes from  chef called Nicola.

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Philosophically I love the idea of the same food for all ages and we tried that with our kids and it mostly worked.

 

But all kids are not alike and some will choose (out of cussedness or genuine distaste) to refuse certain foods no matter the philosophy. We picked our fights carefully.

 

And if your kid isn't an alpha-kid, a strange lunch in the cafeteria can be a point of mockery by the creeps.

 

We tried to be relaxed about the issue.

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Also, people in general tend to get fussy about how certain dishes are made. Go back and look at any number of threads on this site where adults (presumably) argue over what recipe is the 'real' and only definition of something like, say, chicken and dumplings. Even something as simple as the (mostly outlawed in school) PB&J: creamy vs crunchy, corporate vs natural, jelly vs jam, and all the flavor options. I've had adults freak out that I put homemade strawberry jam on a sandwich instead of grape jelly. I think people set certain dishes up as archetypes in their minds, and have trouble accepting that different families make them differently.

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As far as school lunches, if you're going to include things that need to be kept cold, remember that most schools don't have refrigerators for the kids to use. Unless you plan to make a major investment in ice packs that don't need to be returned, you might consider including a frozen juice box or other beverage nestled next to the most perishable items. Or you could even freeze water in a ziplock baggie (or use a Food Saver without the vacuum so you have expansion space, and then double- or triple-bag it to be extra sure it won't leak) to make a small ice pack.

 

Would you be permitted to use your own home kitchen to make food for sale, or would you need to rent commercial kitchen space?

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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What a great idea, Franci!    There's a lot of logistics to work out, but, once it comes to fruition- WOW!! 

 

You know, this might sound a bit crazy, but thinking outside the box a bit here...but how do you suppose the school would feel about a Food Truck parked in their lot, dispensing lunches for the kids?  (Kind of like an ice-cream truck only with healthy food; or a restaurant on wheels.)    Using that kind of set up- you'd have the option of offering hot or cold meals;  pre-ordered by the parents, and then delivered to the school's lunchroom. ?   Or- if the kids were older, perhaps they could come out and make purchases themselves at lunchtime (?)  Pre-ordering would probably make more sense, because then you'd know how much to have on hand.

 

We don't have the food truck fad happening in our town (yet.) But, about 100 miles away in Marquette- they're quite popular.  The initial investment is pretty substantial, but over time, it pays itself off and then some. I haven't looked at the regulations for this kind of operation, but I believe the truck's kitchen goes through a certification and licensing process.

 

Its something to ponder anyways. Great idea, though. Love it!

Andrea

-Andrea

 

A 'balanced diet' means chocolate in BOTH hands. :biggrin:

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Adults are as picky as kids,  the only difference is that adults are polite and suffer in silence , while kids do not.

 

I know some one who  refuses to eat same shaped vegetables on her  plate,  if the greens are batons  the orange has to be round and vice versa. So far I haven't gotten said person to try any white, yellow or purple vegetable. I have to grate and hide if I want the flavours out of some veggies. *sigh*

Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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Be sure to look into the Health Department licensing rules - New York state is pretty complicated. For instance with a home kitchen license you can sell jam but not pickles, only non-chocolate candy and there are various other restrictions. The requirements for your kitchen are pretty strict also - I can not get licensed since my house is open-plan - you have to have doors that allow the kitchen to be closed off. An alternative is to rent space in a licensed kitchen - I have used the local YWCA kitchen for catering.

Your kids' school lunch menus look much better than what my daughter was offered 20 years ago! I remember mostly fish sticks and chicken fingers. The high point (for her) was french toast sticks. 

Elaina

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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Cicero

But the library must contain cookbooks. Elaina

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Would you be permitted to use your own home kitchen to make food for sale, or would you need to rent commercial kitchen space?

I would rent a kitchen space for sure.

 

I am thinking very hard on how to get around the problem of keeping food warm or cold long enough. The mom in NJ was able to deliver her lunches at the cafeteria in schools, I don't think this is an easy option in a public NY school. And to package a lot of meals early in the morning and having them still hot/cold at lunch time is a challenge.

Also, drop up points?

My husband doesn't think it's a good idea but I'm more considering delivering one week (or every 2-3 days of meals) at home, already portioned in containers and parents just have to warm up in the microwave in the morning (which is so much easier than making your own meal anyway) and pour in hot thermos for hot meals. Cold meals is not an issue. Usually parents have already lunch bags and ice packs. In this way the whole logistic gets much easier. Any thoughts?

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I would rent a kitchen space for sure.

 

I am thinking very hard on how to get around the problem of keeping food warm or cold long enough. The mom in NJ was able to deliver her lunches at the cafeteria in schools, I don't think this is an easy option in a public NY school. And to package a lot of meals early in the morning and having them still hot/cold at lunch time is a challenge.

Also, drop up points?

My husband doesn't think it's a good idea but I'm more considering delivering one week (or every 2-3 days of meals) at home, already portioned in containers and parents just have to warm up in the microwave in the morning (which is so much easier than making your own meal anyway) and pour in hot thermos for hot meals. Cold meals is not an issue. Usually parents have already lunch bags and ice packs. In this way the whole logistic gets much easier. Any thoughts?

Edited by gulfporter (log)
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