School lunches can include local food, and be healthy and waste-free too!

School is back in swing, and lunches may have already become repetitive and limited. But there are many healthy, locally-available foods that can add zing to school or other lunch options.

Choosing an exciting, varied menu from local foods for “brown bag” lunches doesn’t have to be challenging, either. Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) offers an availability chart to help you track what’s-available-when, and there’s a lot of fruits and veggies that are still in season. And, farmers’ markets aren’t the only place to find fresh fare—many local grocery stores or chains also take pride in offering locally-grown, produce. Many locally-made artisan foods are offered, too, including breads and bakery items, cheeses, deli meats, salsas, sauces, pickles, jams, and jellies.

Fruits, Veggies Still In-season

Fresh broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and raw green beans can all go into a lunch as crunchy vegetable sticks. Including a dip or peanut butter adds one more thing kids love to eat and do.

Fresh fruits include apples, peaches, plums, pears, raspberries and grapes. Second plantings of lettuce, onions, celery, spinach and other greens are also can also be found. Paired with a protein of cheese or meat slices, or a nut-based spread on crackers or bread, you have easily increased your menu options.

Don’t Forget Pumpkins!

Besides the fun of carving them, make your family smile by preserving and drying pumpkin and its seeds, and making pumpkin preserves.

A how-to fact sheet from MSU Extension called “Michigan Fresh: Using, Storing and Preserving Pumpkins,” includes suggested varieties, a yield chart and processing times, plus storage and food safety tips for choosing them and avoiding cross-contamination. Find this and other fact sheets on various topics at, and more will be featured throughout the new growing season.

More Quick Tips

Cutting up vegetables and fruits in advance and pre-packaging them in small lunch-sized containers can save lots of time when you are packing lunch, and serve as fast after-school snacks that kids can help themselves to with minimal fuss.

Involve your kids in helping to package items for the week’s lunches. Research cited recently in Science Daily News shows that kids who are involved in food preparation are more likely to eat healthier foods.

– Beth Clawson


  1. Thank you. It’s (obviously) really important for me that my kids eat well. So I’ll involve them as much as I can with food prep and make sure they know what’s going into their food.

Comments are closed.