2021 Back-to-School Food Safety Toolkit

Merna Delaurentis

Table of Contents How to Use This Toolkit Brand Brief Talking Points Social Media Infographics How to Use This Toolkit This toolkit is designed to help you get started with your local Back-to-School food safety campaign. In this toolkit you will find the materials you can use to promote safe […]

How to Use This Toolkit

This toolkit is designed to help you get started with your local Back-to-School food safety campaign. In this toolkit you will find the materials you can use to promote safe food handling during the back-to-school season.  

We have organized this material to help make your outreach informative, helpful and fun. Resources include:

To encourage co-branding, you may add your organization’s name to outreach materials and media resources. We have talking points for interviews or speeches. A gallery of photographs and infographics are available through the FSIS Flickr site.

Brand Brief

Please refer to the following guidelines for usage of the USDA logo, colors and fonts. These materials are available to you at no charge, but any and all uses must conform to these guidelines. Contact USDA for approval of other uses or applications by writing to: [email protected]

    Brand Brief

The USDA logo shall be reproduced in either one or two colors. The official colors for the USDA symbol are dark blue (PMS 288) and dark green (PMS 343). When reproduced in one color, the symbol shall be black. When the symbol is placed on a color field, it should be reversed to white.

The USDA symbol is designated for display on all information products of the Department. To ensure maximum visibility, the preferred position of the symbol on most information products is the top left corner.

When used in conjunction with symbol of other public and/or private-sector partners, the logo should be given equal placement and may be displayed without the Department name. If all of the symbols represent Federal organizations, the symbols should be placed in alphabetical order. If the organizations are a mix of Federal and non-Federal, the lead Federal agency symbol should appear first with the remaining symbols ordered as dictated by the situation.

Talking Points


  • The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov) is the public health regulatory agency in USDA responsible for verifying that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.
  • Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that foodborne illness results in roughly 48 million people getting sick, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
  • FSIS works hard to make sure the meat, poultry, and egg products consumers bring home are safe, but consumers also play a role in preventing foodborne illnesses -commonly known as food poisoning. This fall, USDA is helping parents, caregivers and students learn how to protect themselves with the four steps to food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill 

Pack lunches safely by keeping perishable foods out of the Danger Zone.

  • Children are among the most vulnerable to food poisoning, so parents and caretakers need to take extra precautions when preparing and packing healthy, safe school lunches.
  • Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures between 40 F and 140 F (known as the “Danger Zone”).
    • Perishable food such as luncheon meats, eggs, cut fruits and vegetables, pre-washed leafy greens, most cheeses (like mozzarella and string cheese) or yogurt shouldn’t be left out of the refrigerator or without a cold source. 
    • Discard any perishable food that was not kept refrigerated for longer than two hours.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunch bag with enough cold sources to ensure perishables stay below 40 F. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunch time if packed in a paper bag.
    • Cold sources include frozen gel packs, juice boxes or bottles of water. 
    • Freeze juice boxes or bottles of water overnight or pack your lunch with freezer packs. By lunchtime, frozen juice or water should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • If you’re packing a hot lunch such as soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot — 140 F or above.
  • Common food options that don’t need refrigeration include some whole fruits (such as apples, bananas, and oranges), raw, uncut vegetables, hard cheeses (such as cheddar cheese), shelf stable meats and fish (unopened), chips, bread, crackers, peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard, and pickles. 

Remember your four steps to food safety.  

  • Clean: Whether you are packing lunches or preparing snacks at home, make sure to wash your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) for at least 20 seconds. 
    • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. Use a store-bought sanitizing solution or make one at home using one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in one gallon of water to sanitize surfaces and utensils.
    • If your children are eating lunch outside of your home, pack moist wipes or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content so they can clean their hands before eating if they don’t wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Separate: When preparing food and kids’ snacks at home, keep raw meat and poultry separated from cut-up fruit or ready-to-eat items.
  • Cook: Confirm foods are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature by using a food thermometer.
  • Chill: Keep perishable foods out of the Danger Zone – temperatures between 40 F and 140 F where bacteria multiply quickly and can make food unsafe.

Follow package and cooking instructions for frozen foods. 

  • Frozen foods are convenient options to pack for lunches, serve for after-school snacks, or prepare for quick dinners between after-school activities. 
    • Parents as well as kids who are old enough to use a microwave oven should prepare frozen foods safely. 
    • Always follow the manufacturer cooking instructions to ensure frozen foods are being cooked safely and thoroughly. Many frozen foods need to be cooked in a conventional oven. 
  • Some frozen foods are not fully cooked or not ready-to-eat, but have browned breading, grill marks or other signs that suggest that a product has been cooked. 
    • Read the labels on frozen foods to check whether they are ready-to-eat or still need to be cooked. 
    • Although these products may look similar to cooked items, they require different steps for preparation.
  • Wash your hands before, during and after preparing any meals, including frozen foods.
  • The only way to know your not-ready-to-eat frozen product is safe to eat is by confirming that it has reached a safe internal temperature measured with a food thermometer. Frozen food is not finished cooking until it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
    •  Cook raw whole-cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal to 145 F. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest (sit off the heat) for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
    • Cook raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to 160 F.
    • Cook raw poultry to 165 F.
  • Reheat all fully cooked frozen products to 165 F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Refrigerate leftover foods within two hours after cooking or reheating.
  • If foods need to be thawed before cooking, thaw them safely. Some foods need to be kept frozen until cooking, so always follow the package instructions for thawing or cooking. 
  • If frozen convenience foods can be thawed, thaw using one of the three safe thawing methods. 
    • Refrigerator: This is the safest thawing method, but it takes the longest. Place food in the refrigerator to thaw. 
    • Cold water: Place food in a leak-proof package or plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes so the food continues to thaw. Cook the food immediately after thawing using this method. 
    • Microwave: Refer to the owner’s manual for your microwave for instructions on how to thaw. Cook the food immediately after thawing using this method.

Social Media

Share Back-to-School food safety guidance with your followers and be sure to use the hashtag: #FoodSafe. 
Follow us on Twitter for our Back-to-School food safety Tweets and Retweet us! Don’t forget to tag us in your tweets (@USDAFoodSafety).


Back to School Food Safety Tips   Back to School Food Safety Tips - Spanish

Back-to-School Food Safety Tips
English: https://flic.kr/p/KHiTzR 
Spanish: https://flic.kr/p/Kp2wX7 

Pack a Safe Lunch

Pack a Safe Lunch: https://flic.kr/p/2mkrudS 

Pack a Safe Lunch

Pack A Safe Lunch Infographic (Image): https://flic.kr/p/2mkvmBp 

Pack a Safe Lunch

Pack A Safe Lunch Infographic (animation): https://flic.kr/p/2mknES6

Tips to Keep Your Kids Healthy

Tips to keep your kids healthy (rectangle): https://flic.kr/p/L5rAZz 

Tips to Keep Your Kids Healthy

Tips to keep your kids healthy (square): https://flic.kr/p/264fah9 

K-5 Handwashing

Back-to-School for K-5: Handwashing: https://flic.kr/p/2jxDcyg 

6-8 Microwave Cooking

Back-to-School for 6-8: Microwave Cooking: https://flic.kr/p/2jxGuk4 

9-12 Chilling Leftovers

Back-to-School for 9-12: Chilling Leftovers: https://flic.kr/p/2jxHzEX 

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