The state of school openings is fluid across the country. Many parents are struggling to provide school at home, including school lunch.

Everyone is hoping schools will open safely as soon as possible. Depending on the state of Covid 19 in your area, students may be starting the school year at home.

Parents know if conditions require it, schools that open may move to online or remote learning as needed. You can help your child succeed by feeding like a school lunch pro! Here’s help for “at-home” school lunches for busy parents.

School nutrition programs have long been a great value-added option for busy parents. I have worked with school nutrition programs and know the value these caring professionals provide. I have expertise in healthy ways to feed children and want to share ideas with you.

I have extensive experience working with school nutrition programs and staff, from onsite reviews to training sessions. I understand how schools help children develop healthy eating habits. I also help parents support healthy eating at home. I wanted to share these lunch ideas with you to help you during this challenging time.

When your child goes back to the classroom, school lunch is a great choice. Healthy meals are planned and prepared by professionals with an eye on nutrition, taste appeal, and food safety.

Many schools will continue to offer grab-and-go meals for students attending alternate day schedules or even meal kits for districts that are in an online or remote learning-only mode.

Check with your local school nutrition program for details on the help they can provide. Let them know you want to participate in their programs – they want to serve all the children in their area as possible.

Giving advance notice helps school nutrition programs plan for higher demand – they do not want to run short of meals due to unexpected increases. Help them help you with feeding your children.

Children thrive on routine and stability. When you are in charge of “school lunch” at home, offer a meal that closely resembles a school meal. It is one way to help your child with transitions.

School meals offer balanced nutrition from the basic foods.

Here are some ideas that match the high quality meals schools offer.

School meals at home

1. Include vegetable and fruit every meal. Schools offer ¾ cup of vegetable and ½ cup of fruit daily to students in K-8 grades, and 1 cup of each to students in grades 9-12. Your home meals can do the same. Take advantage of the abundance of fresh, local produce during late summer and fall – maybe even from your own garden.

2. Routinely offer whole grains. Use whole wheat bread or bagels for sandwiches, whole grain-rich English muffins for mini pizzas or brown rice for bowl builds.

3. Vary protein choices daily. Sandwich options such as nut butters, tuna salad, or lean meats such as turkey breast or turkey ham break up the routine. Cheese melted on a tortilla with refried beans is quick and easy. Hard cooked eggs or yogurt parfaits are other easy winners. Sliced left over roast is another quick option.

4. Make milk the beverage of choice. Schools meals offer both nonfat and low fat milk to provide additional protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. Skip the sodas, fruitades and drinks made with too much sugar.

I know many of you are juggling many priorities including feeding your children when school is at home. I have gathered together five days of menu ideas to help you. Many of the ideas are “easy assembly” with minimal cooking times.

Menu #1
Baked potato (microwaved) topped with
Turkey chili and a sprinkle of cheese
Melon wedges
Cucumber slices

Menu #2
Tortilla with refried beans and a sprinkle of cheese
Pears (fresh or canned in light syrup)

Menu #3
Multigrain English Muffin topped with pizza sauce, cheese and additional veggies such as peppers, broccoli florets, spinach
Tossed garden salad (tomatoes, shredded carrots, cucumber) with lowfat ranch dressing
Peaches (fresh or canned in light syrup)

Menu #4
Ham Sandwich on whole wheat with Romaine lettuce leaves
Hummus with baby carrots, zucchini, celery, and red pepper strips

Menu #5
Toaster Waffles Ala Mode – whole grain toaster waffles with layers of vanilla Greek yogurt, banana slices and blueberries (optional, from frozen)
Sweet potato wedges (from fresh or frozen, baked or air fried)

Help is available to ease feeding your children when the classroom is at home. Check with your local school nutrition program for the meal options available.

When planning and providing school lunches at home, use school menus as a guide. Provide a variety of lean protein, daily fruits and vegetables, whole grains and milk.

Good nutrition helps your student learn, grow, and maintain health. Consistent meals at home and school help your child transition during these challenging times.

Feed Your Kids Like a School Lunch Pro