That's something even young children can do, Allie Foyerlicht, owner of Young Chefs Academy in Fresno, Calif. Her students, typically ages 3-13, learn how to make foods such as pita bread from scratch, energy bars, baklava and more. This summer, they even did a session with portable meals. Many of these foods work well for school lunch.
Three children in the Silva-Costa family of Clovis, Calif., recently demonstrated how to assemble lunches.
Nine-year-old Harrison scooped jam thumbprint cookies, as well as a snack of baked, spiced chickpeas, into plastic bags.
His sister, 6-year-old Kennedy, rolled tortillas around sliced tomatoes, turkey, spinach, bean spread and cheese.
And 4-year-old Britton used a melon baller on a cantaloupe.
They had some help from Foyerlicht. She used the food processor to make the bean spread, and she transferred the chickpeas and cookies to and from the oven. But the kids did the rest - slicing tomatoes with a special plastic knife, stirring together a raspberry dressing for the cantaloupe, shaping the cookies and more.
It may sound like a lot of work, but each of these dishes can be made the day before. Tortillas, in particular, are great for sandwiches. Unlike bread, they won't get soggy, Foyerlicht says.
Cooking this way also lets children experiment according to their tastes. Harrison chose a turkey wrap without tomatoes, and he wouldn't touch the cantaloupe. "I like everything but cantaloupe and raw tomatoes, he says.
But he happily ate the chickpeas. "I like them because they're seasoned," he says.
This year, the children will be home-schooled, but they'll still eat meals on the go, Harrison says. They'll tote lunches to dance class, and he'll sometimes being dinner to football practice.
In addition to these ideas from the Young Chef's Academy, the children say they like carrot sticks with ranch dip, leftover pizza, raisins and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches - all foods they can help assemble.
No matter what they eat, the food containers are just as important as the lunches themselves. A sandwich on bread can look great in the kitchen. But packed in a plastic bag and a soft tote, it can look less than appealing by the time it gets to school.
"Kennedy doesn't like it when the sandwich is smushed," says the children's mother, Darrylynn Silva-Costa.
The family has its preferences when it comes to lunch boxes and food containers. Darrylynn Silva-Costa likes two-part containers that store cold milk on the bottom and dry cereal on top. They also work well for parfaits of yogurt and granola, she says. One brand is the EZ-Freeze Cereal on the Go.
She also was interested in the Thermos Food Jar, which keeps food cold or hot for hours and was easy enough for Britton to open.
Harrison liked a lunch box with compartments that keep different foods separate. One brand is the Arctic Zone insulated lunch pack. The bottom compartment comes with a Tupperware-like container. There's a taller, top compartment that can hold a sandwich or another container.
Kennedy and Britton liked a different lunch box. A small Igloo Playmate Gripper (the 9-can cooler) has a large bottom compartment and another space on top that's perfect for a water bottle.