Seasonal Staples For Back-To-School Meals & Snacks

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

With the excitement of picking out school supplies and getting the kids fitted with some stylish apparel slowing down, the charge of packing lunches and planning out tasty after-school snacks continues! Kids need nourishing meals and snacks to best prepare them for learning and playing with their friends. What better way to arm them with healthy, delicious meals and snacks than to take advantage of Missouri’s seasonal produce.

Making the most of the fruits and vegetables that are in season now will ensure your family is getting the freshest, most flavorful produce at a reasonable price. Another benefit is the fact that purchasing food locally is environmentally friendly and supports local farmers. Visit your nearest farmers’ market to check out what’s ripe and ready for the eatin’.

You’re sure to find something tasty for even the pickiest of eaters with everything in season in Missouri this month, including apples, Asian pears, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, greens, pears, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and turnips.

Easy Meal Ideas

  • Turkey or ham sandwiches are a go-to staple in kids’ lunch boxes, but amp up the nutrition by adding in some sliced tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, or sweet bell peppers. Lean meat and veggies also work well in a whole-wheat wrap.
  • Toss together some cooked, cooled whole-wheat pasta, light Italian dressing, and some chopped tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and bell peppers for a scrumptious, colorful pasta salad. To make it a well-rounded meal, add in some chicken breast or white beans.
  • Throw together a colorful, nutrient-packed salad. Use spinach or Romaine as the base, then load it up with seasonal veggies. To make it more appetizing for your children, try cutting the veggies into fun shapes. Add in a lean protein, such as turkey, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or white beans.

Always put an ice pack or two in the lunch box to ensure the food stays cold and out of the temperature “Danger Zone” (food temperatures between 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, where bacteria multiplies rapidly and can cause food-borne illness).

Easy Snack Ideas

  • Cut up a variety of veggies, place on a tray, and pair them with a low-fat ranch dip, or make your own from scratch by combining light sour cream, minced garlic, chopped scallions, salt, pepper, and splash of vinegar.
  • Spread some peanut butter on a whole-wheat tortilla and place apple or pear slices on top of the peanut butter. Fold over and grill in a skillet until crispy on both sides.
  • Make a quick, easy cucumber salad – dice cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions and toss with light Italian dressing.

Operation Food Search invites you to share in our commemoration of 35 years of nourishing our neighbors in need. For details about the following happenings, please visit www.OperationFoodSearch.org:

  • September 1 and ongoing – Operation Food Search teams with Sauce Magazine and Pinnacle Imports, LLC to fight hunger. Anytime you purchase an “OFS wine” from a participating restaurant or retailer during our anniversary year, OFS will receive a portion of the proceeds.
  • September 26 – The Young Friends of OFS host “Cheers to 35 Years Wine Tasting” at the Duane Reed Gallery in the Central West End. Proceeds support our childhood hunger initiatives.
  • September 27 – Visit our booth at the Healthy Planet Expo in Webster Groves.
  • October 1 – “Cheers to 35 Years Open House” at Operation Food Search Headquarters. Awareness, Refreshments and Tours – There’s no place like our home! Help us celebrate the start of our 35th year – learn about all the ways we heal the hurt of hunger in our community and opportunities to help.