This blog is a place where parents and teachers of children 3-7 years of age can find information about topics specific to children in this age group, share ideas and access free resources for home and the classroom.

Back-to-School Food Safety Tips

tipsThe following back-to-school  food safety tips are shared by Marianne Gravely, Food Safety Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These tips can make all the difference in keeping foods safe from the time they leave your home until your child eats them in school. Following these tips will prevent foodborne illnesses.

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle or back in the car for all the parents. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is Bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snack for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.


Walking Safety Tips

Safe Kids USA asks you to follow the tips below to make sure you keep your children safe while they are walking to and from school. Reviewing these tips regularly with your children can play an important role in keeping them safe.


Tips for Walkers

  • Developmentally, most kids can’t judge speeds and distances until at least age 10, so younger kids need to cross the street with an adult
  • Did you know most walking injuries happen mid-block or someplace other than intersections? Whenever possible, cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street, and keep looking and listening while crossing
  • Walk, don’t run, when crossing the street
  • It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths, but if there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible
  • Remove headphones when crossing the street
  • If you need to use your phone, stop walking
  • Distraction among drivers is at an all-time high today, so try to make eye contact with the driver before you step into the road

 For more road safety and walking tips go to

Keeping Kids Safe as They Go Back to School

 As another school year begins, the American Red Cross suggests steps that everyone can take to make the trip back to school safer.

“When kids go back to school, parents should make sure the child knows his or her home phone number and address, parents’ work contact information, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1,” said Dr. David Markenson, chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and pediatric expert.

“Parents should also teach their children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know,” Markenson added.

Bus Safety

If children ride a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Other safety steps for students include:

  • Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed you to get on.
  • Only board your bus and never an alternate one.
  • Always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
  • Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
  • Never dart out into the street, or cross between parked cars.

Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean:

  • Yellow flashing lights — the bus is getting ready to stop, and motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop.
  • Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign — the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers in both directions must stop their vehicles and wait until the lights go off, the stop sign is back in place and the bus is moving before they can start driving again.


If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.

If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.

All drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones.

schoolBiking and Walking

Students who ride their bike to school should always wear a helmet, obey all traffic signs and ride on the right in the same direction as traffic.

Those who walk to school should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards. Parents should walk young children and children taking new routes or attending new schools at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Thereafter, arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

Take a Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED course so you’ll have the knowledge and skills to act if an injury or emergency happens. You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll always have first aid information at your fingertips.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or their blog at


Protect Your Food Supply When Camping

campingThe last weeks of summer are a great time to enjoy outdoor activities such as camping.

The US Dept of Agriculture wants you aware of safe food practices that insure a fun camping trip, free of food borne illnesses.

When it Comes to Safe Drinking Water While Camping …

It is not a good idea to depend on fresh water from a lake or stream for drinking, no matter how clean it appears. Bring bottled or tap water for drinking. Always start out with a full water bottle, and replenish your supply from tested public systems when possible.

 The surest way to make water safe is to boil it. Boiling will kill microorganisms. First, bring water to a rolling boil, and then continue boiling for 1 minute.

What Foods to Bring Camping?

Advances in food technology have produced relatively lightweight staples that don’t need refrigeration or careful packaging. For example:

  • peanut butter in plastic jars;
  • concentrated juice boxes;
  • canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef;
  • dried noodles and soups;
  • beef jerky and other dried meats;
  • dehydrated foods;
  • dried fruits and nuts; and
  • powdered milk and fruit drinks.

Powdered mixes for biscuits or pancakes are easy to carry and prepare, as is dried pasta. There are plenty of powdered sauce mixes that can be used over pasta, but check the required ingredient list. Carry items like dried pasta, rice, and baking mixes in plastic bags and take only the amount you’ll need.

General Rules for Outdoor Food Safety
Plan ahead: decide what you are going to eat and how you are going to cook it; then plan what equipment you will need.

  • Pack safely: use a cooler if car-camping or boating, or pack foods in the frozen state with a cold source if hiking or backpacking.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods.
  • Never bring meat or poultry products without a cold source to keep them safe.
  • Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dish washing.
  • Plan on carrying bottled water for drinking. Otherwise, boil water or use water purification tablets.
  • Do not leave trash in the wild or throw it off your boat.
  • If using a cooler, leftover food is safe only if the cooler still has ice in it. Otherwise, discard leftover food.
  • Whether in the wild or on the high seas, protect yourself and your family by washing your hands before and after handling food.


Our National Parks

The first national park was Yellowstone in Wyoming created by President Grant in 1872. Some 30 years later, President Theodore Roosevelt would create an additional 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests.


President Theodore Roosevelt at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California, 1903

Here is your country,” President Theodore Roosevelt once said. “Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.”

These protected and preserved parks, trails and areas contain natural wonders, like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and Niagara Falls on the border between New York and Canada.

Some of the parks are historical, and tell the story of America.

Fort McHenry near Baltimore, Maryland, which held out during the War of 1812 against British cannons overnight and provided the inspiration for our national anthem.

Ellis Island in New York harbor is preserved and houses an impressive museum detailing the stories of over 22 million people who came to America in pursuit of their American Dream.

The National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania allows visitors to walk the preserved battlefield of what was a major turning point in the American Civil War. The battle served as the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address.”


Hiking and walking outdoors, participating in a natural science or historical learning activity, touring a museum, taking a boat ride, or just having a picnic lunch, these are all just a few of the things you can do at a national park.

With over 400 trails, areas, preserves and parks across the country there is bound to be one near you.

parksThe National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) works to safeguard our national parks—to protect, cherish and celebrate these great American places.

National Parks Conservation Association:

If you are a veteran, or are currently serving in the armed forces of America, please take a moment to answer a few questions about your relationship with the national parks of America.

To find a national park near you:

To learn more about our national parks, you can visit the PBS site: “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (A PBS-Ken Burns documentary)

If you don’t happen to live near a national park, there are still many other state and city parks to enjoy.

To find the parks near you, visit Discover the Forest at


Article by: Ned M Campbell is the head coach of James Madison High School’s wrestling team in Brooklyn, NY, and is a USA Wrestling nationally certified coach. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches history at James Madison teamHigh School.  Prior to teaching, Ned M Campbell worked with children and adults with disabilities during summer programs with IAHD and Southeast Consortium,  and volunteered time supporting a therapeutic horseback riding program for youth and adults with disabilities.

Campbell is a published writer, and a contributing writer to the “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in “Can Do” Street programs.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Coach Campbell’s co-article for kids, on this subject, featured on the “Can Do” Kids blog at