SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — School lunchtime is about talking and laughing with friends for many students. It’s also a time for them to get the energy and nutrients needed to keep their bodies and brains working efficiently through the afternoon.

Sending kids off to school with a packed lunch could be a healthier alternative they need to get through their day. However, it is important to take proactive steps to keep their food safe to eat during their lunchtime.

Here are 8 safety tips for packing a lunchbox

  1. Before beginning any food preparation, wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds and dry with a disposable paper towel or clean hand cloth.
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2. Wash food contact surfaces such as cutting boards with hot, soapy water and either air dry them or use a clean cloth, or disposable paper towel to dry between tasks.

3. Clean lunch boxes with hot, soapy water and either air dry them or use a clean cloth, or disposable paper towel to dry.

4. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water and dry thoroughly before packing.

5. If the lunch contains perishable food, like lunch meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt, keep it cold by packing the lunch the night before and placing it in the refrigerator overnight.

6. Place ice or gel packs around the food.

7. Pack hot foods in an insulated thermos while the food is hot. Preheating the thermos by filling it with boiling water, letting it sit for a few minutes, pouring out the water, then adding hot food is also helpful.

8. Make sure your child knows to throw out all used food packaging and perishable leftovers. Do not reuse plastic bags as they could contaminate other foods leading to foodborne illness.

For more information on foodborne illness and prevention click here.