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June 2005

Laptop Lunch Times: June 2005

The Laptop Lunch Times

June 2005

Summer is nearly here...

Wow, Memorial Day has just passed and many of your children will be starting summer vacation in the next few weeks. Some of you will be taking family vacations. Some children will be off to summer camp, and others will be involved in various summer programs. Remember to pack your Laptop Lunch with nutritious food so you're not stuck having to buy processed foods you wouldn’t normally purchase.

Wishing you and your family lots of special time together this summer!

Amy and Tammy

And here's a hot idea from one of our readers...

"We live in an area where it's hard to get fresh fruit in the winter, so I often pack fruit cocktail in my son's lunches. One day I wanted to pack soup also, so I spooned it into the lidded container from my extra dishwasher set. I discovered that if I placed it in the outer hard case with the tab facing away from the latch, it worked great. Thought I would pass this along in case others want to know."

NOTE: If you're interested in purchasing two or more extra INNER CONTAINER SETS, order online and receive a $1.50 discount per set during the month of June only.

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Monthly Menu
  • Potluck Hits

  • Green Opportunities
  • New Retailers
  • There's no Place Like Home
  • Interview with Kathryn Chipman
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories

Laptop Lunch Photo with Food

Monthly Menu

Potluck Hits

Attending a potluck anytime soon? Here are two easy recipes that taste great. Involve your children, and they'll enjoy these dishes even more! Potluck leftovers will taste great for lunch the following day. Trade leftovers with other families before you leave the party and pack them into your Laptop Lunches when you get home.

#1: Asian Sesame Noodle Salad

Makes 8 to 10 small-plate servings
  • 12 oz angel hair pasta

  • 3 Tbs sesame seeds

  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil

  • 1 Tbs sesame oil

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin, short slivers
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 1 cup snow peas cut diagonally in half
  • salt
  • If you like it spicy, add 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes.

1. Bring 2 1/2 to 3 quarts of water to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart pot.
2. Break noodles in half and add to the boiling water. Stir to separate, and cook until just tender. (Do not overcook.)
3. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
4. Rinse and dry the pot.
5. Using the same pot, stir sesame seeds in oil until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Remove from heat.
7. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and cayenne, and stir until blended.
8. Add noodles and mix until well coated.
9. Add bell pepper, carrots, and green onions and mix gently. Add salt to taste.

Make this salad up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill. For best flavor, bring to room
temperature before serving.



#2: Black Bean and Rice Salad

    Makes 10-15 servings.

  • 2--15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz. frozen corn
  • 2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¾ cup chopped red onion
  • 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix in large bowl: beans, vegetables and cheese.
2. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the mixture.
3. Add salt and pepper, and toss lightly.
4. For best results prepare this dish the day before and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Green Opportunities

Some earth-friendly tidbits that have landed in our office in recent weeks...

  • Looking for an easy-to-read soft drink fact sheet ? Check out "Soda Consumption Puts Kids at Risk for Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, and Cavities" on the California Center for Public Health Advocacy Web site at

  • Join the adventures of Cuke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Cannoli, Chewbroccoli and the rest of the Organic Rebels fighting against Darth Tader and the Dark Side of the Farm. Don't miss these ORGANIC ENTERTAINMENT scenes from not so long ago, in a supermarket not so far

  • Energy snack food should be convenient and simple, but fresh is best. Are you tired of opening (and throwing away) another wrapper-- to eat a humdrum snack with an 11-month shelf life? Matisse and Jack's POWER BAR MIXES are made with whole foods like oats, flax-seed, nuts and dried fruits, with no refined flours...and they taste great too. Check out their site at They've generously offered our newsletter subscribers a discount when purchasing 2 or more bags. To take advantage of this offer, enter "WASTEFREESUMMER" (no quotes) in the coupon code field when checking out.

  • Are you thinking of investing in a HYBRID but don't know where to start? Check out the May issue of GreenTips, published online by the Union of Concerned Scientists at

New Retailers

Please welcome these new retailers to the Laptop Lunches family!

Lakewinds Natural Foods and Home
17523 Minnetonka Blvd
Minnetonka, MN 55345


Learning Express
1437 Military Cutoff Road, Suite 104
Wilmington, NC 28403

Telephone: (910) 509-0153

Do you know a store in your area that might be interested in carrying Laptop Lunches? Email [email protected] to tell us about it!

There's No Place Like Home

By Sanna Delmonico

Think about the sweetest, juiciest, most luscious tomato you have ever tasted. Where did it come from? Probably close to home. Your neighbor's garden? A local Farmers' Market? The farm stand you stopped at last summer? It wasn't a supermarket tomato from South America last January, because that tomato was lifeless, grown to withstand weeks of shipping and refrigeration, looking pretty and tasting wooden. Home truly is where the heart and the tastebuds are. A tomato, a fragrant pear or a taut ear of corn grown close to home is in season, as fresh as possible, and tastes marvelous.

As important as it is, taste is only one reason to buy locally grown food. Another is supporting your local economy. Buying tomatoes, eggs or flowers at the Farmers' Market eliminates distributors and middlemen and means small farmers make more money. For every dollar spent at the supermarket, the farmer who grew the food receives an average of just 10 cents.

Not only do farmers benefit, we all benefit, because a greater percentage of money spent on local food stays in the community. A survey done in Britain found that money spent on local food generates nearly twice as much income for the local economy as the same amount spent in a supermarket. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is campaigning to have every household spend $10 on local food each week. This simple step will add $100 million to Maine's economy each year.
Local food uses far less fuel and resources. It has been estimated that food bought in supermarkets travels, on average, 1500 miles from the farm to our tables. A survey of Community Supported Agriculture farms (more about CSAs later) on the central California coast found food traveled just 19 miles from farm to table. Eating local food means amazing savings of fossil fuel for trucking, shipping, and air freight. Shipping food long distances requires refrigeration to prevent spoilage and refrigeration requires ozone-depleting chemicals. Locally grown food uses less packaging and creates less waste. There are no Styrofoam trays of green beans or corn covered in plastic at the Farmers' Market.
Eating local food helps preserve genetic diversity in produce. Most fruits and vegetables don't tolerate long storage, packaging or shipping, so just a few varieties with the toughest skins and the longest shelf-lives are used. When food stays close to home, on the other hand, a large number of more diverse, perishable, and tasty varieties can be grown.

Eating local food connects us to the seasons. In September, for example, the last of summer's tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant are still available. Fall's apples, pears and pumpkins are at their peak. Cooler winter weather will bring tender lettuces and greens like spinach, chard and endive.
We have two peach trees in our yard. When the peaches are ripe, last year in late July, almost every meal included them. We blissfully devoured peach pancakes, peach gratin, peach salsa over pork chops, peach ice cream. Then one day they were gone. The peaches were sweeter because they were fleeting. Eating with the seasons heightens awareness and enjoyment of each food at its particular time. It begins to feel unnatural to eat cucumbers in February.

Eating local food creates bonds between farmers and consumers. It puts faces on your family's food. It is like taking care of gifts from friends when we spread Hector's honey on morning toast, pack Michele's plums into our daughter's lunchbox, or sit down to a soup of Amy's peas. These people nourish us. By getting to know some of the farmers who grow our food, we begin to learn about the challenges of producing food, as well as local agricultural and environmental issues.

Where to find local food?

Your own backyard. Growing vegetables, herbs and fruit on whatever scale you have room for is tremendously satisfying. Vancouver agrees. A survey by Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture found that 44% of households in and around Vancouver grow some of their own food in backyards, on balconies and in community gardens. Growing some vegetables, herbs or fruit at home is the best way to teach children about food and nutrition.

Farmers' Markets bring many farmers together in a central location, usually once or twice a week. The markets offer seasonal produce and other foods including cheese, honey, eggs, meat, fish, and dried fruit. They may have prepared food like breads, preserves, sauces, pastries, roasted chickens, tamales, or kettle corn. Our market in Napa has a children's story time, live music, and a book exchange. Farmers' Markets are nearly one-stop shopping and also are wonderful social gathering places to chat with friends.
Farm Stands are roadside operations open permanently or just for the summer. Around Napa, a happy sign of spring is the opening of the strawberry stands offering fruit from the fields directly behind them. Farm stands can be large, featuring a range of produce and products, or very small. During the summer here, some people set up card tables on the side of the road to sell extra zucchini, figs or persimmons from their gardens. These usually go on the honor system - just put your money in the coffee can.

CSA or Community Supported Agriculture farms offer consumer "subscribers" boxes of produce weekly throughout the growing season or the year. The number of CSA farms has increased from almost none in the early 1980s to over 1000 today. Subscribers may pay in advance for the year or pay quarterly or monthly. It is a dazzling surprise to open a box bursting with fresh, often organic, vegetables and fruit and plan your meals around it. Subscribing to a CSA means you spend less time shopping, but there is also less choice in your produce. Less choice can be a good thing. Your family learns to love vegetables you don't know, or don't often cook. Many CSAs publish newsletters, so subscribers learn how to cook the produce, how the weather influences different crops, and the progression of the farmer's year. Some invite subscribers to harvest festivals or other events at the farm, offering an intimate view of how food is grown.

We are used to choosing any fruit or vegetable that appeals to us at any time of the year. But the deliciousness and significance of peaches or watermelon or apples is directly proportional to the local connections we have to them.

Local Food Resources

To find a farmers' market in California, visit: In other parts of the country, visit

To find a Community Supported Agriculture farm in your area, the Robin Van En Center for CSA Resources has listings in every state:

Two other excellent resources are and

Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD, is a cook, gardener, mother, and the editor of Tiny Tummies, a food and nutrition newsletter for parents. Visit her on the Web at


Laptop Lunches of Marin

An Interview with Kathryn Chipman

I've been hearing a lot about waste-free lunches in the media lately. Could you tell us what waste-free lunch programs look like and why they're important?

    Waste free lunch programs are a wonderful tool to teach kids about their environment and how to take care of it. A waste free lunch is a lunch that is packed without using anything disposable, so there's nothing to go to the landfill. Food is usually purchased in bulk instead of in single servings and is put into containers that can be reused so there's nothing to throw away. Some schools have policies that mandate students bring waste-free lunches and others promote waste-free lunches with education or contests.

How did you first become interested in promoting waste-free lunches?
    The school my boys attend has a waste-free lunch program, and I've been very impressed with the way the kids have internalized these values. The lunch room has 4 recycling stations and the kids have learned to recycle everything that is allowable. We used to have a competition every Tuesday for the class that had the highest number of waste free lunches. That class would earn the coveted Star. They became so good at it that we dropped the competition. Now there are students called Waste Managers who help students dispose or recycle at lunch dismissal. When I heard about Laptop Lunches I knew that would be a good fit for our school. Many families were using Tupperware, rewashing plastic bags or had some other system, but in the end most of their containers were thrown away or lost. In their attempt to be part of the solution, they were becoming part of the problem. The Laptop Lunch box is functional and practical because the modular containers fit together like a puzzle. The kids love the colors and the carrying case looks like a computer case--very cool in kids' eyes. Food items stay separated (which is important to many kids like mine) and nothing gets mushed. It even comes with its own utensils and a book of recipes and information. Obentec really thought of everything.
I understand that you've been active in the schools. How does that work?
    Most schools would love to implement a recycling and waste-free lunch program but don't know how or what the benefits are. I usually work with schools in one of two ways. I can attend a school event where I provide students and families with information about the hows and whys of waste-free lunches, or I provide the school with information that they distribute to students in their take home folders. Sometimes I go into the classrooms and talk to kids about the 3 R's. We talk about how long it takes for things to decompose or how many tons of garbage we generate. It's amazing to see the light bulbs go off when they realize that their own trash will outlive them.

With schools struggling to find ways to pay for essential programs, your school fundraisers must be very popular. Can you tell us more about them?

    The Laptop Lunch fundraiser is a great way to help schools both financially and environmentally. I always donate 20% of profit back to the schools so it is a fundraiser for them. It's great when the schools earmark the money for an item or project related to reducing waste, like new recycling containers or signs.

And the hidden bonus, of course, is that the schools pay less to have all that trash hauled off.

    Yes. Several years ago the Marin Conservation Corp helped our school conduct a trash audit. The kids had to weigh the trash over a period of time to get a baseline figure. They then implemented the waste-free lunch program and added recycling bins for paper, plastic, cardboard and food compost. After a period of time, they re-weighed the trash and recorded the change. I don't remember the exact figure, but the results were staggering. Our school's waste continues to be low. We've added a worm bin, a compost heap, and chickens. While we didn't eliminate trash completely, the students have lots of diversion choices other than the trash can.
What kind of feedback have you received from other parents?
    It's been great. I get a lot of word of mouth business. Parents are happy that they are now spending less money on lunch items because they're not paying for the extra packaging or plastic baggies. They like how easy the containers are to clean by hand or in the dishwasher. Also, if their child doesn't eat something in their lunch, it comes home in the container for the parent to see.
How have your children responded to your business?
    I think they really like being associated with Laptop Lunches of Marin. They often help me at local events and my older son loved seeing his photo in the paper for an article about waste-free lunches. When we go grocery shopping, they help me pick out healthy foods with minimal packaging. They've learned how important it is to make good choices for our bodies and for the environment. We don't have to be perfect all the time, but we need to be aware. We still eat pizza and (organic) macaroni & cheese, but we alway recycle the boxes.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
    The Laptop Lunch box is great for car trips, airplane trips, and the park because it sits right on your lap. I am no longer tempted to buy the little single serving foods when we're on the go. Many airlines are no longer offering meal service, so a lot of families pack Laptop Lunches before heading off to the airport.
What's the best way for people to contact you?
    I can be reached at Laptop Lunches of Marin at (415) 302-1588.

What Works...Success Stories

  • "We have a Laptop Lunch box and we just bought new inserts for it. My husband loves it. He uses it every day. I love it too because it is easy to figure out how much to pack."

       -- Sheri Gray, Springfield, MO


  • "I read about your product in Prevention Magazine abut a year or so ago. I purchased one Laptop to use for my grandson, and I just purchased another one that my husband and I will use when we travel by plane. Our grandson is just now 2 so we'll start giving him his lunch in it when he visits. It will be something new for him. I enjoy your newsletter. I was previously in the food service field, manager of an elementary school kitchen for 13 years, so I am well aware of the waste that is generated from lunches brought from home. Your product intrigued me."

       --Jan Roslie, Fallbrook, CA


  • "My son has a lot of food allergies and needs to bring lunch every day.The laptop bag keeps his food fresh a lot longer than those supermarket lunchbags and it fits in his backpack. (Very helpful for an AD/HD kid who can't eat cafeteria food & has trouble remembering to bring all of his stuff.) Thanks for a great product."

        --Adrienne Conroy, Springfield, VA

Do you have a success story or photo to share? Email it to us at [email protected].

Featured Web Site:


Did you know that over 130 billion beverage bottles and cans were trashed in the United States last year? That’s up from 100 billion wasted—not recycled—in 1999. That’s enough aluminum cans and glass & plastic bottles to fill the Empire State Building 101 times.


Recycling glass saves resources and energy because glass furnaces can burn at lower temperatures!
Growing beverage container waste in the US and worldwide calls for greater awareness and education about consumption and recycling. The Container Recycling Institute ( advocates policies that foster consumer and producer responsibility for wasteful packaging. One such policy, known as a container deposit system or "bottle bill," ( results in container recycling rates that are twice the national average. In eleven states, consumers pay a deposit of 5 or 10 cents. When they return their containers, their deposit is returned. Because people want their money back, they're more likely to recycle their cans and bottles instead of throwing them in the trash or littering. Recycling saves energy and other valuable resources, creates jobs, and reduces harmful green house emissions. Reduce container waste by packing your beverages in reusable containers. If you must use disposables, remember that it's your responsibility to recycle them.
Visit to find out how many beverage bottles and cans have been trashed so far this year. Get the tools you need to pass a bottle bill in your state at Download a play about recycling that elementary school students can perform at

July Highlights

Summer salads, why recess rocks, and eco-friendly organizing!

Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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© June 2005 Obentec, Inc.

849 Almar Ave., Suite C-323
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Feel free to reprint or forward this newsletter with the following acknowledgment and contact information clearly visible: "Thank you to Obentec, Inc. for permission to use this copyrighted material. For more information, contact Obentec, Inc. by email at [email protected] or by phone at 831-457-0301, or visit their Web site at Reprint permission granted with this full notice included."