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The Lunch Prep Challenge

Strategies and resources to help feed the kids during these busy weeks

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October 22, 2020
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Photo by Jen Phillips

Now that we are several months into a global pandemic that uprooted so many of us from our regular routines, can we confess that what felt doable in the early weeks has evolved into a juggle of uncertainty as we work toward defining a new normal? Especially when it comes to parents balancing work from home schedules with kids either in distance or blended learning environments. Between Jen Phillips, Jessica Bell, and Maria Hesse, there are six boys to feed, and we’d like to casually acknowledge that when it comes to figuring out what we are going to serve for lunch on a weekday—the struggle is real. 


Really, it was Phillips who wanted to ask Bell, co-founder of reVessel, for some help. 


Bell is passionate about nutrition and needed no help because she’s a master at meal prep. lunches during breakfast. Her best advice for handling the extra meal-time prep was to carry on with the routine we had before COVID-19.

  1. Establish routines for efficiency: This could be batch cooking on Sundays and assembling lunches while making breakfast.
  2. Increase nutrient density: How can we add more variety of veggies and fruits to our meals? According to *research, for each additional serving of veggies and fruits, risk of all-cause mortality is reduced by 5% with the greatest risk reduction seen at 8 servings per day or more. Changing the plate starts at breakfast. 
  3.  Reducing packaging and waste from mealtimes: This is another way of reducing the migration of chemicals from entering food and creating less waste in our environment.


Bell also advises to use online cooking resources, like kidscookrealfood.com to get the kids involved.

Photo by Jen Phillips

Phillips, creative curator at Gracey Lane Farm, tends to prep lunch the night before, and she’s accessing school lunch benefits to help fill in the gaps of what she can feasibly prepare to feed three boys. Then came the sudden recall—not sure what happened because prior to COVID, the kids made their lunch!  

For Hesse, executive editor, throwing something together to eat at lunch time is often a scramble but picking up school lunches on occasion has also been a great help. 

Between the three of us, our main objective is to share these talking points:

  1. That households with children and anyone who needs it, knows that we have access to breakfast and lunch through the end of 2020. Check out the San Diego County Office of Education Fall Feeding Program or your local school district’s online resources for information. The San Diego Hunger Coalition is also helpful for more information if you need additional help. 
  2. Boost veg and fruit intake when and where we can. Add in an extra one to two servings and as much variety as possible at every meal. We literally can’t eat enough fresh produce and we live in the best place for it. 
  3. Talk about cooking and eating with your kids, encourage them to participate and involve them in food prep.
Photo by Jessica Bell
Photo by Jessica Bell

Before COVID, many kids were likely eating meals from school and the benefit is there for them even as we navigate through continuing with distance learning or slowly returning to campuses. Having prepared items on hand from the school feeding program also makes it easier for the kids to access snacks and meals without parental support. With the school programs, you get what you get, but a variety of items like sandwiches, pizza, even uncrustables, plus fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and juice. 


Phillips challenged Bell to see who could pack the best lunch but we invite everyone to join because the best way to support a healthy immune system is through good nutrition—and we need that now more than ever.


Photo by Jen Phillips
Photo by Jen Phillips

Bell packed a creative variety of veg and fruit for each of her kids. Check out that rice paper trick with the avocados and greens and note that persimmons and pomegranates are in season. In total, that’s about eight cups of veg and fruit. 

Phillips shares a quick recap of realizations, reminders, and notes from the lunch challenge:

  • Focus on healthy and balanced meal
  • Picking up lunches=10 minute prep time for three lunches
  • Helping hands (bring in the little sous chefs)
  • Zero dollars spent
  • used fruits and herbs from Gracey Lane Farm
  • school lunch program
  • No waste
  • Veggie and fruit scraps always go to the chickens
  • Food items from the lunch program that we do not use go to a family member and the Fallbrook Food Pantry.

Lunch

  • Chicken Tamales with avocado / cilantro / tomato from Gracey Lane Farm
  • Chips and homemade Gracey Lane salsa
  • Blueberry yogurt from school lunch program with pomegranate seeds from the farm
  • Sliced fresh cucumber / carrot / squash from lunch program

 

This was such an incredibly positive experience collaborating with full-time working moms to address our lunch time challenges head-on with healthy, time-efficient, and cost-efficient solutions that can seamlessly work-in our busy family schedules. We’d say it is a big win for us all.


Join the lunch challenge by sharing tips and tagging your healthy family lunches with #esdlunchchallenge on Instagram and share your family lunch tips.


Photo by Jessica Bell
Photo by Jessica Bell
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Maria Hesse
Maria Hesse is Edible San Diego's Managing editor, a food and lifestyle designer, pug photographer at PugsMutt.com, and co-author...
more about this contributor
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