Following in the footsteps of pumpkin spice, it seems like school starts earlier every year. After trudging through a year of Zoom school and making three meals a day, gone are the best intentions of sending kids off with an Instagram-worthy lunchbox filled with fruit cut to look like flowers and sandwiches painstakingly assembled to resemble a favorite animal. Now, the standards align more with “if it’s vegan and it fits in the box, it’s fair game.” No doubt, parents will want to rely on some store-bought staples to sustain their kids at school. Here are 10 easy, portable vegan foods to pack in a school lunchbox. 

Let’s Plate Co

1. Vegan Lunchables

The current parenting generation grew up with Lunchables—pre-portioned, shelf-stable kid foods packed into compartmentalized plastic containers. In 2021, kids don’t have to settle for mystery meat circles with matching crackers and “cheese product” cheese. Enter Let’s Plate. The non-GMO brand offers vegan versions of Lunchables bestsellers including the pizza variety and the ham, cheese, and cracker plate. Each box comes with vitamin D-infused gummy bears and a 100-percent fruit squeeze pouch. Parents, there is no judgment if you pack one for yourself for old time’s sake. 
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Split Nutrition

2. Peanut butter and jelly packs

Parents, learn from your own parent’s lack of foresight. We’ve all opened a lunch bag to discover a squished and soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What’s worse, it’s made with the heel of the bread loaf, which is nothing but crust—perhaps the most unappetizing carbohydrate in a child’s eyes. Do your kid right. Give them the tools to build their own sandwich. Split Nutrition makes a super convenient perforated pack that comes with nut butter on one side and jelly on the other. Pack two slices of bread (with the crusts cut off, please and thank you!) and sidestep the soggy sandwich catastrophe. 
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3. Nut butter and vegetable snacks

Not all lunches require sandwiches; sometimes, kids just like to graze. First off, if that’s your kid, just know that they will likely grow into an adult with a taste for expensive vegan charcuterie boards. For now, feed their snacking preferences by packing a Justin’s nut butter pack, a few celery sticks, and a mini pack of raisins. Tada—assemble-your-own ants on a log. 
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4. Single-serve soy or pea milk

If a teacher or classmate asks your kid where they get their protein, all they have to do is hold up a single-serve carton of soy or pea milk. Both contain eight grams of protein—the equivalent to cow’s milk serving for serving—and most brands fortify their kids’ drinks with calcium and vitamin D. Try Ripple’s On the Go pea milk cartons in original, vanilla, and chocolate. 
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Miyoko’s Creamery

5. Vegan cheese sticks

It’s tough sending vegan kids out into the world on their own. We don’t blame them for wanting to eat exactly what their friends eat, but those foods typically derive from animals. Fortunately, there is a quality plant-based match for most packaged foods out there—including cheese sticks. Debuted in May 2021, Miyoko’s Plant Milk Cheddar Sticks will help your child feel included at the lunch table while providing them with two grams of protein. You may want to pack an extra for sharing purposes. Spread the plant-based word through vegan cheese! 
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Maxine’s Heavenly

6. Allergen-friendly cookies

Yes, Oreos are vegan, but should kids be eating them every day? Probably not. Send your kid off with something sweet without loading them up with sugar (their teachers will thank you). Maxine’s Heavenly makes two packs of cookies that are free from refined sugar, gluten, and animal products. Flavors range from Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin to Chocolate Chocolate Chunk (yes, double the chocolate). Partake is another fantastic allergen-friendly cookie brand with nut-free flavors including cookie butter and birthday cake. These cookies are yet another item parents may wish to pack in their own lunches. 
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7. Hummus cups

Virtually every big-brand hummus company makes a single-serving cup. These shelf-stable packs of chickpea spread can serve as a cornerstone of a healthy, vegan sack lunch. Just add baby carrots, a sturdy fruit, a carton of non-dairy milk, and perhaps a treat and it’s good to go. Brands to look out for include Sabra, Good & Gather (Target’s own brand), and Kirkland Signature.
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8. Single-serve olive packs

Either you were the kid or you knew the kid who couldn’t get enough olives (we were the former). Olives are packed with healthy, unsaturated fats making them ideal brain foods. Pearls is one of the most accessible brands that make single-serve olive packs. Find them on Amazon or at most large supermarkets. 
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Kite Hill

9. Yogurt tubes

Just like Lunchables, the Go-Gurts of the modern parent’s youth have been veganized. Yoplait’s iconic squeezable yogurt now comes in a dairy-free option made with coconut milk. Parents can find these at Target, but to support a completely plant-based brand, check out Kite Hill’s Dairy-Free Kids Yogurt Tubes in Strawberry Banana. Just make sure to pack an ice pack—not that the yogurt would go bad, but room-temp yogurt isn’t the most appetizing option. Your kid will thank you.
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10. Vegan deli slices

Pack your kid with protein by boxing up a few vegan deli meat slices with their lunch. Sure, you could make a sandwich, but most kids are happy to nibble away regardless if a piece of deli meat is between two slices of bread or not. Field Roast, Tofurky, Mia, and Simple Truth (Kroger brand) all make a range of quality vegan deli slices that are perfect for school lunches. 
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Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and runner living in Orange County, CA.

Photo credit: Let’s Plate Co

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