What’s In Your Bento Box?

By Portia Latalladi, Chicago Public Library, Garfield Ridge Branch


Our library’s healthy-living themed summer reading program has just begun! In the midst of discussing literacy, nutrition, and exercise with eager young readers we have a special program planned for our parents on how to create nutritious bento boxes.

What is a bento box? Loosely translated, the Japanese word “bento” means a prepared meal in a bag or other container. This seemingly mundane definition hardly does justice to this spectacular edible art.  A simple sandwich can be transformed into a pair of dinosaurs roaming through a jungle of lettuce leaves, or even better into boxcars rolling along carrot and celery tracks. From underwater scenes to zoo and farm animals, the possibilities are endless!

Pig Bento

If you are interested in hosting a Bento workshop at your library here are a few tips and tricks:

Find a book or site on making bento boxes; here are a few suggestions:

Watanabe, Crystal. Yum-Yum Bento Box. Quirk Books, 2010

Northeast, Mark. Funky Lunch. Absolute Press, 2010




www.pinterest.com  (search “bento”)

(YouTube also has a few bento box tutorials, so consider incorporating viewing a tutorial   into your workshop.)

Be sure to select a bento box idea that will be easy for you to demonstrate and for the parents to replicate.

The Hello Kitty and Mater (from the Cars movies) sandwich recipes found at                 www.funkylunch.com would be perfect for novice bento boxers. These recipes require         common kitchen supplies (vegetable peelers) and typical lunch staples (bread and                cheese). For a budget friendly program, you can ask parents to bring their supplies.           (If possible, provide a few additional supplies just in case someone forgets.)

                Have fun! Parents should enjoy the creative process of this art form. No two creations will look  exactly alike, and that’s part of the charm!

If your programming budget allows, consider raffling a bento box recipe book or sandwich cutters. This is a great way to encourage parents to continue creating fabulous, healthy lunches and snacks!

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