School Lunches: Think Inside the Box

By Micaela Williamson

School lunches are not what they used to be. Products like Easy Lunch Boxes are leading the bento craze and making lunches special for students. Easy Lunch Boxes founder and CEO Kelly Lester notes, “Kids love to open their lunchboxes & find a love note from mom or a fun sandwich shape cut with a cookie cutter. It’s all about eye-appeal. They’ll eat what you pack if it’s eye appealing. Something about compartments makes food more fun.” Their website contains a gallery with hundreds of inspiring lunch ideas.

There is certainly no shortage of creativity in the Northern Virginia area. Check out these special lunch creations from local restaurant owners, bakers and food bloggers.

Jeffery Connelly co-owns Great Harvest Bread Company Burke and Lorton with Jeanette Moler and knows that whole grains provide children with sustained energy for better concentration. Jeffery says, “Our Honey Whole Wheat bread is made from five ingredients, whole wheat flour, water, yeast, salt, and local honey and will stay fresh for 7-10 days.  We recommend using simple ingredients, natural peanut butter or almond butter and jam. It can’t get easier. Kids can make them too.”


For those who want a non-traditional twist on the old PB&J, check out this creation from Justin Chen, food blogger at Bacon, Egg, and Deez.  This lunch contains steamed peanut butter and jelly buns with a side of mango slices and taro chips.

(Recipe adapted from


Mom blogger at Mama Miss, Melissa Tucker Klinker, has lots of experience with bento lunches.  For this article, she created this cute one.  Starting at the upper left corner going clockwise:

Square 1: Cucumber, pepper, and cream cheese Sandwiches

Square 2 : Greek yogurt, apples, fruit leather

Square 3: broccoli, carrots, and cheese

Square 4: Peanut butter and granola bar pieces


Midori Rome, of 703 Mommy and Me, says, “I loved lunchables as a kid, too bad my mom wouldn’t buy them for us. So now that my little one is old enough to go to school I’d love to give him the same fun experience of assembling his lunch and making it his own.” Her lunch contains a homemade Greek inspired pizza with a deli flat, hummus, cut up chicken, tomatoes and feta cheese crumbles.  You can either assemble this pizza for your child or send the items in a partitioned container to be assembled at lunchtime. On the side she serves fruit, veggie, and cheese kabobs and a mix of Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies and Trader Joes cinnamon school house cookies to help little ones learn letters and numbers while enjoying their sweet treat.


Courtney Demers from the Sweetest Soiree in Annandale is known for her elaborate, artistic desserts.  Courtney declares, “My kids love finger foods, and are quite a bit more inspired to eat when (healthful) food piques their imaginations! I strive for lunches that will ensure sustained brain power throughout the day, and don’t mind stretching my own imagination to come up with a mid-day meal that is both balanced and fun!”

This teddy bear picnic-themed lunch contains:

 ● Teddy Bears- Whole grain bread cut with a small teddy cookie cutter topped with Nutella and cookie sprinkles

 ● Picnic Blanket- Slices of Havarti cheese topped with squares of turkey peperoni

 ● Picnic Basket- Halved hard-boiled egg

 ● Flowers- Assorted vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes)

 ● Field- Boston lettuce, stems lightly dressed


Travel overseas with this Greek inspired lunch from the team at Spartans and Olympians Family Restaurants. Encompassed of a chicken pita pocket with grilled chicken and mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), and Greek yogurt with blueberries, this lunch is sure to be a healthy hit with kids. Owner Eleni Linardakis adds, “Tzaziki dressing is optional of course depending on the child’s preference. ”



Photo Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography

Micaela Williamson is the creator of, a popular, local blog that focuses on Northern Virginia families and events. Her website was recently voted “Best Blog 2012” in Northern Virginia Magazine. Micaela enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.






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2 Responses

Amy Hadden Says:

Add a sweet lunch note. Every day I post free printable lunch notes on my site Jokes, fun facts, etc. – please take a look.

andrea Says:

Love these ideas!

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