Lunch Bunch

When it comes to toting meals to school, children have lots of choices.

Focus on Back to School

August 22, 2004|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Back-to-school time is time to talk lunch. Not whatM-Fs in your childM-Fs lunch, but what his lunch is in. How the container defines its carrier. How the carrier can make the container more his M-y or hers.

In the first decades of the 20th century, picking a lunchbox was easy; kids used whatever was available. Cast-off tobacco tins and biscuit containers worked fine.

Then, in 1950, an Aladdin Industries executive in Nashville came up with the idea of putting cowboy movie hero Hopalong Cassidy on the side of a steel box. The humble lunch container had become a vessel of pop culture, with a host of celebrity faces and cartoon characters gracing boxes over the next few decades.

The lunch box M-twas similar in shape to the TV screen, and that was the great marriage,M-v said David Shayt, curator of M-tTaking America to Lunch,M-v an exhibit of lunchboxes and beverage containers from the 1880s to the 1980s at the SmithsonianM-Fs National Museum of American History.

M-tIt empowered children at a fairly early age as discerning consumers,M-v Shayt said. M-tThere was suddenly a new decision maker in the household.M-v

There were even lunchbox alternatives for the families who wanted to remain TV-neutral. The McPherson red plaid box introduced in 1964 was a safe and popular choice, Shayt said, and it went with the fashions of the times.

These days, lunchboxes literally have softened around the edges, after complaints from some parents that the metal box was being used as a weapon. You can find many of kidsM-F favorite characters M-y from the latest Harry Potter image to classic Winnie the Pooh M-y on these cushier creations.

And lunch-toters can express themselves more directly M-y in some cases, according to the whim of the day. Thermos Co.M-Fs new Barbie Hard Lunch Kit with Static Cling Wardrobe lets kids change BarbieM-Fs knee-high boots from brown to red to pink and give her a hat for a bad hair day.

Other Thermos offerings have games and secret compartments on the front. With the 30 decals that come with Little PackratsM-F M-tfacecase,M-v a teen can show whether sheM-Fs facing the school day with a smile M-y or is best left alone. Bags from Lillian Vernon let you advertise your sport and the name of your team.

If youM-Fre hungry for a taste of nostalgia, the classic metal lunchbox also is making a bit of a comeback.

NECAM-Fs retro-looking Classic Spider- Man Lunch Box has arrived on the heels of Spider-Man 2. And in honor of its 100th anniversary and the Smithsonian exhibit, Thermos has created replicas of a Looney Tunes lunchbox from 1959; a Barbie lunchbox inspired by artwork from 1962; and that popular plaid box that, perhaps, some parents remember all too well.

Lunchbox immortality

M-tTaking America to LunchM-v is on display indefinitely at the SmithsonianM-Fs National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Telephone: 202-633-1000.

1 Thermos has issued three new containers that recall the heyday of the metal lunchbox featuring classic McPherson plaid, Barbie designs and Looney Tunes characters. The boxes, which have a retail price of $24.99 each, are available at or the gift shop at the SmithsonianM-Fs National Museum of American History, Washington.

2 Send your student off with his favorite outdoor creature. L.L. Bean features bags covered with dragonflies or frogs, or plainer versions with dolphin, butterfly, and sea turtle patches, to name a few. Available for $10 to $15 at or 1-800-441-5713, and at the L.L. Bean store at The Mall in Columbia.

3 Make a face to match your school-day mood with the M-tfacecaseM-v from Little Packrats. With 30 decals, youM-Fll never run out of expressions. The bag retails for $20 to $25 and is available in Baltimore at Funky Fish, 724 S. Broadway, or at or

4 The Classic Spider-Man Lunch Box, out this fall on the heels of Spider-Man 2, is available for a retail price of $16.99 at Suncoast, Sam Goody, Spencer Gifts and local comic book stores, or at

5 The futurist teenager M-y or adult M-y might love the byo lunch bag from Built NY. Made of neoprene rubber, it opens into a place mat, and can be rolled up for storage when empty. It can be purchased for $26 at Maribou, 6083 Falls Road in Baltimore, or ordered at or 1-866-878-4281.

6 Your child can wear his passion for a sport, along with his name or the name of his team, on these bags from Lillian Vernon. The bags can be ordered from or 800- 545-5426 for $9.98.

7 WildkinM-Fs Fireman Lunch Pal tells the world what a kid wants to be when he grows up. There are also bags for aspiring astronauts, ballerinas and horse lovers. Available for $11.95 at

8 For the kid who loves to jump on a trend, the Harry Potter Soft Case Lunch Box offers instant recognition. It retails for $7.99 to $11.99 at Toys M-tRM-v Us and Ace Hardware stores and can be ordered at

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