Attention, parents: The Lunch Lady reveals how to achieve an empty lunchbox

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Attention, parents: The Lunch Lady reveals how to achieve an empty lunchbox

– Secrets from the expert who serves thousands of Canadian kids daily –

The Lunch Lady , known for delivering hot, healthier meals to Canadian elementary school children, reveals her tips and tricks to help parents deal with their most loathed chore – making lunch!

Ruthie Burd highlights three critical aspects that affect whether your child’s whole lunch gets eaten: the physical lunchroom space, time allotted, and the lunchbox’s contents.

Historically, Canadian elementary kids went home for lunch, leaving little need for places like cafeterias or lunchrooms. Eating now takes place in either a classroom, where kids eat at their desks, or a gym-turned-lunchroom, where children sit at fold-down tables or, worse, on the floor!

The lunchroom 101

  • Most Canadian elementary schools have NO cafeterias.
  • Elementary students who don’t go home eat either in the noisy gym or in their classrooms at their desks.
  • Unfortunately, there are few lunchroom supervisors to watch over the children during lunch. Often, senior students will volunteer to assist as lunch monitors in individual classrooms.


*The Lunch Lady says: “In order to finish their lunches, kids need enough time to eat, socialize with their friends and be in an environment that is somewhat conducive to eating lunch. Eating is a social as well as a nutrition exercise.”

Not enough time to eat?

  • Schools have either one main lunch break or, more common today, two nutrition breaks that are approximately 40-60 minutes each, including 20 minutes for eating and, in most cases, the rest for recess.
  • Ideally, students should have time to eat healthy options at both breaks.

*The Lunch Lady says: “The 20 minutes allotted to eating is further reduced by the time spent handwashing, collecting their things and finally putting away lunch.”


What comes home in the elementary student’s lunchbox or, worse, goes in the garbage can at school?

  • Good, healthy, unfinished lunches
  • Large sandwiches
  • Untouched whole apples and unpeeled fruit


What’s does NOT come home?

  • Cookies and snacks, as kids like those best
  • Juice or other sweet beverages to wash down the snacks
  • Hot food from the Thermos, as kids tend to eat hot food first



*The Lunch Lady says: “Pack what you WANT your kids to eat. Make sure the lunch is assembled in a way your child can manageably eat in the time allotted.”


Tips from The Lunch Lady

What can parents do?


Tip #1  – Limit the snacks

Pack only the foods you want your kids to eat. Given a choice, kids will fill up on juice and packaged foods, limiting their time for eating the healthy foods.


Leftovers in a Thermos are a great option and seem to be enjoyed by kids. Warm food at lunch seems to get eaten, and it fills kids up with the healthier stuff first. A water bottle from home is a better option than a juice box, even an unsweetened one.


If they have two nutrition breaks, consider packing two sandwiches rather than a bunch of packaged foods to compete with the healthy foods. Make sure your kids have appropriate food to eat at each break.


Tip #2 – Keep it easy

Prepare foods that are easy for your kids to eat. Peel oranges, cut up apples, and cube cheese. Kids love to nibble as they talk, just as their parents do at parties when served appetizers.


It is easy to put together a bento-inspired meal, especially if your child likes the look of the “lunch in the box” options in the grocery store. Get proper bento boxes or use a hard-sided lunch box filled with individual containers.


See examples below.


Tip #3 – Educate

Talk to your children about lunch at school. Why do they need to eat lunch? Kids need to be educated about nutrition.


Tip #4 – Include your kids in the conversation

Some kids like new things, and some want the same thing day after day until they do not! Involve your children in the lunch discussion. But remember you are the adult in charge and are responsible for setting limits.


Let them be creative. Maybe they would like a smoothie in a Thermos instead of an apple.



Tip #5 – Make it FUN and easy to eat

Make lunch fun for your kids. Children might even like to be involved in making it.

A ham and cheese sandwich looks quite different when it is:

  • Rolled up in a tortilla
  • Turned into bread sushi sandwiches
  • Served up as mini-sandwiches on whole wheat dinner buns
  • Cut in fingers or quarters like party sandwiches
  • Cut by a cookie cutter

*The Lunch Lady says: “Kids eat differently. I once witnessed a Thermos with pasta and Parmesan, with a side of applesauce for dipping – why not?”




*The Lunch Lady delivers lunch to thousands of children every school day. We observe not only our own customers but the lunchtime habits of their peers as well.


Our goal is to adapt our program to the realities of the current school lunch environment and find ways to ensure that kids have every opportunity to fill up their tummies with healthy foods so they are ready and excited to learn. Because of time constraints, lunches are distributed within two minutes of the bell, and because we know there is a lot of talking going on, meals are portioned in ways that are easy to eat – for example, apple slices instead of whole apples, proteins cut in small strips or cubes so no knife is required and a leak-proof lunch bag so leftovers can be taken home.


About The Lunch Lady

The Lunch Lady has grown through a network of dedicated franchise partners who support healthier school food environments in four provinces – Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. It was founded by Ruthie Burd in 1993. Ruthie was intrigued to learn that there was a lack of cafeterias in elementary schools and also that parents found making lunches a real chore! Ruthie believes in making a healthier, affordable lunch that can be delivered to all Canadian school-aged children. She believes it is possible to create healthier versions of kid-friendly favourites that kids will not just eat but enjoy eating!



For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Tory Crowder, Jumpstart Communications,, [email protected] 416 998 9702


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