Rethinking the Bag Lunch

bag lunchThe brown paper bag lunch was the lunch of choice, well actually the only choice for school lunch when my son was in elementary school.

There was no school cafeteria, just a lunch room where he could purchase a container of milk and sit with friends eating, sharing and trading what was in his brown paper bag.

Given the lack of refrigeration at his school, my daily challenge was to pack a lunch that wouldn’t spoil between the time he left for school and his lunch period.

Today’s elementary schools have cafeterias, where a child can purchase lunch or, if he or she qualifies, participate in a subsidized lunch program. However this is not the case in many daycare centers and preschools where a child must still carry his or her own lunch.

A recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, raised concerns about the safety of carrying and eating a bag lunch even when the lunch is in an insulated bag that contain ice packs or other coolant.

About half of daycare centers in the U.S. require kids to bring lunch from home. The investigators examined lunches of 235 daycare attendees at nine Texas centers. The individual contents of their sack lunches were assessed on three random days between 9:30 and 11 a.m.

Of the 705 lunches, 11.8% were stored in a refrigerator, but teachers often left them sitting out for a couple hours first. The rest were stored at room temperature in cubbies without much air circulation.

While about 91% of the lunches were sent in insulated plastic bags, the mean temperature of food items reached nearly room temperature (63.7 °F). Just 22 of the 1361 perishable food items (1.6%) were in the “safe” range below 39.2°F.

Ice packs didn’t help much. Only five of the 61 perishable food items with multiple ice packs in the lunch bag stayed the right temperature (8.2%).

Investigators found nearly all lunches packed from home got too warm to prevent food-borne illness despite use of ice packs. Even with the use of multiple ice packs, more than 90% of perishables in the lunches reached unsafe temperatures.

The study points to the need for:

  • Preschool and daycare staff receiving more training in food safety
  • Parents finding better ways to pack lunches safely
  • Manufacturers developing ice packs and lunch bags that do a better job

Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator


September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Partnership for Food Safety Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration want consumers to know that some beliefs people have about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:


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


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