* Freeze the drinks. Frozen water, milk or juice doubles as an ice pack. Yogurt and soft cheese also can be frozen
* Refrigerate everything ahead of time. Even foods that don't need to be kept cold, it will help keep the inside of the lunch sack cool.
* Use two or three ice packs plus an insulated bag if lunch will be kept at room temperature.
* If your child can store his or her lunch in a refrigerator, forget the cute insulated lunch box and put the food in a paper bag.
* Trying to keep something hot? Before you put hot food in a thermos, pour boiling water into it to preheat it. Also heat the food up to 165 degrees. Then dump the hot water and add the hot food to the thermos. Close it quickly.
* Use nonperishable items in lunches, such as peanut butter sandwiches, whole fruit and vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, grapes, carrots and apples.
* Urge kids to dump their leftovers rather than carry them home.
* Don't reuse packaging materials, such as paper, plastic bags and aluminum foil. Bacteria can grow on these wrappings and contaminate food.
* Wash lunchboxes, thermoses and reusable food storage containers daily with soap and hot water.
* Minimize the time food spends at room temperature. Prepare lunches the night before and store them in the refrigerator overnight to help keep food cold longer the next day.
Sources: USDA and Cheryl Luptowski, home safety expert at NSF International, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to food safety.