Chances are you did not plan on acting as the food service provider for your children during virtual schooling. Now the school year plans have changed, and may change again, you can learn some key steps to make the added mealtimes creative, and food safe while adding kid friendly foods and flavors.

Start with handwashing. With more hands in and out of the kitchen, keeping hands, food preparation surfaces and utensils clean will destroy the food borne pathogens coming into the kitchen. Young children need supervision to insure they are washing with warm water at a safe temperature, using soap to make a lather and rubbing their hands together for at least 20 seconds, then rinsing with warm water and following with drying their hands.

Planning. Planning meals takes some time, but the time savings will come back when we know what we are eating. Start by writing down your five favorite meals, those you usually have ingredients for in the house. Focus on the main meal, then add breakfast and lunch to add variety to your meals. Rotate your meals according to season, work nights versus weekends or preference. Using the “leftovers” or “plan-overs” within seven to 10 days as a buffet night will decrease waste and empty the refrigerator before foods spoil. Include a freezer-only night to help rotate the foods tucked away out of sight.

Involve everyone in the home. When we plan and prepare our meals we are invested in the flavors and ingredients and will more likely eat the food we make. Keep a fruit basket on the counter to encourage fresh foods for snacks.

By involving our family members in safe meal preparation, we will share the load of more meals at home during the pandemic and may create a new family activity. For meal preparation ideas, contact your local Extension office, AICR.org, or fightbac.org.

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at jhbuck@uidaho.edu.