Now that my oldest is in school, we have discovered the joys of packing her lunch. Beyond the list of banned foods we need to be careful about (last year it included peanut butter, strawberries, and shellfish — as if I would ever send her to school with shrimp cocktail!), there are her ever-evolving and contradictory preferences we had to remember and adjust to. But you know, you do it. Five days a week.
We try to be eco-conscious, so each element goes into a perfectly sized reusable container in her lunch box. And every night we pull out all those containers, dump out the crumbs, hand-wash everything, and set them out to dry to start all over again the next day. And we think we're doing all right.
But in the midst of all this, it's easy to forget to clean the one piece that might be just as dirty: the actual lunch box.
Sure, I give my daughter's lunch box a swipe if I see some crumbs in there. But I tend not to actually clean it, like, with soap and water. And I need to get better about that. Little kids, especially, have weaker immune systems than adults, and are more likely to get food-borne illnesses like E. Coli and Salmonella than us grown-ups.
They're also less likely to be consistent about washing their hands or cleaning up spills while they're eating. So lunch boxes get dirtier quicker, then get tossed into a holding area to grow some bacteria, and then don't get washed before they're packed again with food — a recipe for major tummy troubles or worse.
So going forward, I pledge to treat my daughter's lunch box like I would any other food prep surface in my home: I'm going to clean it every night. And if you have little ones — or a lunch box or bag you bring to your office every day — I hope you'll join me!