The Food Channel released its Top 10 Back to School Food Trends for 2009. This year it’s about the box and the food that goes in it—it might be a decorated brown bag, a throwback metal box reminiscent of an old TV show or cartoon, or even a bento box. The food reflects the same DIY options. It might be a creation made by a burgeoning cook; possibly a classic mainstay like a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich. Or, it could have an ethic influence. The point is more about individualism layered with an emphasis on food safety. The 2009 Back to School Food Trends have been identified by The Food Channel based on research conducted in conjunction with the World Thought Bank and the International Food Futurists.

“People are packing a little more excitement into their lunches,” says Kay Logsdon, editor of The Food Channel. “They have the bases covered, like using recyclables and carrying their own water bottle. Now they are adding nutrients wherever possible, or adding value in some way—like putting that cookie in that was purchased as a fundraiser.”

The Food Channel Top 10 Back to School Food Trends for 2009

1. It’s in the Bag: This year, it’s about what you carry. Don’t worry about a designer lunchbox, but do think about food safety and practicality—those are winners when it comes to school lunches. Choose a bento box for the child who likes to compartmentalize his food. Turn lunch into an art project with a DIY metal lunchbox that can be personalized.

2. Green is the New Brown: When it comes to snack bags, think recycled, biodegradable, or compostable. We predict more people than ever will be choosing reusable snack bags.

3. Let Them Choose: The trend is all about “my way.” Making choices starts earlier these days, so let kids practice by giving them a say in what goes in their lunch. It’s as simple as giving them a weekly list or a brown paper bag on which to record their choices.

4. Think Fresh. Fresh and local is a trend we see across all categories. Fresh fruit or vegetable sticks are still great to include, and they’ll be sure to eat them if you include a local geography lesson prior to packing. That means taking them to the local farmer’s market to choose their own apples, and reminding them where the apples came from when you hand them the bag.

5. Push Portability: Even the cafeteria line has gone portable, as schools and universities eliminate those plastic trays. So whether you are buying or packing, we predict portability will be important to you when school starts again.

6. Carry Your Own Water…Bottle: Sure, that’s a great lesson for kids who need to learn to do their share. It’s also a way to protect your kids and get some extra nutrition in their diet.

7. Make it Healthy: We predict that you’ll see lunchboxes full of antioxidant-rich foods. The trend is for students to be attracted to healthier items. Maybe it’s a sign that we can mark that obesity trend off our list.

8. Be the Mom with a Heart: Back to school means back to fundraising, so go ahead and do your part. We predict more schools will be choosing food items for their fundraisers—it just makes sense in a difficult economy.

9. Think Social: Social media, that is. School mealtimes are more about time together than they are the meal. This is when you’ll find students (assuming cell phones are permitted in their school) Twittering, texting, and talking online.

10. The New Home Ec: Your kids are getting exposed to space-age vending machines like the one that bakes fresh pizza in minutes. They are already used to ordering their pizza via text message. We call it the “new home economics” because we need to prepare ourselves, and our children, for the cooking of the future. Make sure you know what is available in the vending machines on the school grounds, and know the school rules about delivery.

Bonus: Do something for yourself. You may be eating at home more often—so make the time to take a cooking class. It’s a great time to take a few Cooking 101 steps yourself, or sign up as a family.