Back to school means back to packing lunches or eating school lunches. Lunch is not only an important part of the daily school routine, but also serves as an opportunity for kids to learn how foods are grown and made, to encourage participation in meal planning, and to create enthusiasm for trying new foods. Read on for some favorite books to get excited about school lunch.

Lunch Stories: Trying Something New

Yoko by Rosemary Wells

When Yoko brings sushi for lunch, her classmates make fun of it: “Ick! It’s green! It’s seaweed!”, leaving Yoko sad and embarrassed. Her teacher decides to plan an international food day, where everyone will bring a dish from a foreign country and try a bite of all the contributions. Yoko’s mother makes sushi for the class. Are any of her classmates brave enough to try it? This reassuring story is about friendship and kindness, and having the courage to try new things and appreciate differences.

Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Salma and Lily are best friends. They do everything together, including eating lunch. Lily brings a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day, while Salma brings a hummus sandwich. Each thinks the other’s sandwich looks pretty weird, and unkind words about each other’s lunch lead to hurt feelings. Can the friends get back on track and learn to accept (and respect) different lunches? This is a story about friendship and being open to the unfamiliar.

Lunch and Breakfast Ideas and Inspiration

Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love by Katie Sullivan Morford

This cookbook offers tons of practical, creative, delicious solutions and tips for packing school lunches from a seasoned food and nutrition writer who is also a registered dietitian. It includes recipes for turning leftovers into lunches, salads kids will love, crunchy extras, treats and more, with appealing photography that makes you hungry for! Helpful make-ahead notes and other tips accompany many of the recipes. My kids pored over this book and flagged many recipes they are eager to try in their lunches this year.

Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More than 160 Happier Meals by Catherine McCord

Featuring helpful tips, recipes, and stories, this book is a resource that will keep lunch enthusiasm going strong for both kids and parents. A whole chapter on PB & J offers lots of ideas for taking the familiar favorite to new places. Muffins, dips, and creative takes on classics (Grilled Cheese Croutons for Tomato Soup; Tex-Mex Rice Cakes; Sandwich on a Stick) with high kid-appeal and appealing photos offer new ways to engage and surprise in the lunch box.

Pancakes to Parathas: Breakfast Around the World by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by Tomoko Suzuki

In addition to lunch, breakfasts also merit a closer look at the start of the school year. Looking for ways to encourage kids to try some breakfast options beyond the standard cereal or toast? This fun book looks at breakfasts around the world. Kids may be surprised and curious to see that chocolate sprinkles on top of buttered bread is a common breakfast in the Netherlands, in Brazil kids drink coffee and dip bread in it, and in Nigeria crunchy black-eyed pea fritters are a traditional choice.

Lunch and Learn

How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti

Sandwich bread, cheese, fruits and veggies, treats, juice and milk: this book takes a look at how common lunch box components are grown and produced. It includes some basic info about how food fuels our health, and it encourages readers to move their bodies and eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies.

Who Made My Lunch? From Wheat to Bread by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

It can be easy to take sandwich bread in our lunch boxes for granted, since it’s in ready supply at the grocery store. But do you know how bread is made? This book looks at what goes into a loaf of bread and the people involved each step of the way, from the farmer who grows the wheat, to the miller who grinds the wheat into flour, to the baker who makes bread from the flour. A short glossary and further resources are provided in the back. Additional books in the series cover other lunch staples including jelly, peanut butter, cheese and more.

Happy reading and happy lunch making!

To see more of my favorite cooking and gardening books for kids, please join me @thepicturebookcook on Instagram. And please dig into more of my book picks for Kids in the Kitchen, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter!

Kate Rowe loves picture books, reading, gardening, cooking, and talking about all these things! She shares picture book recommendations paired with food adventures @thepicturebookcook on Instagram. She is a writer, editor, and parent of two book-loving garden helpers.