Patent application title: PERSONALIZABLE FOOD STORAGE CONTAINER
Jill Weiss Pollina (Pepper Pike, OH, US)
Ann R. Dery (Beachwood, OH, US)
IPC8 Class: AF25D2300FI
Class name: Refrigeration combined
Publication date: 2010-10-21
Patent application number: 20100263399
A storage container has an outer case that defines a plurality of cooling
areas adapted to receive individual cooling packs. A food storage tray is
carried within the outer case. The food storage container has individual
compartments that are aligned with the cooling areas. Cooling packs may
be selectively placed in the cooling areas to cool selected compartments
of the food tray. The inner food tray may carry a separate latch or may
be held closed by the outer case. The food storage tray is provided with
movable dividers to allow the user to customize the size and
configuration of the compartments in the food storage tray. In one
configuration, the invention provides a food container having a built in
dry erase board and a dry erase pen. A reusable fork and spoon may be
removably secured to the inside of the outer lid. In one configuration,
the invention provides a storage container in combination with a
removable peg board for designated pegs to be inserted for
1. A food storage container comprising:an outer case having a base and a
lid;a removable inner food tray defining a plurality of compartments for
holding items;one of the container and lid defining a plurality of
cooling areas aligned with the compartments; anda cool pack disposed in
at least one of the cooling areas.
2. The container of claim 1, further comprising:a dry erase board carried by one of the base and lid.
3. The container of claim 1, further comprising a pen and reusable fork and spoon carried by one of the base and lid.
4. The container of claim 1, further comprising a removable peg board for designated pegs to be inserted for personalization; the removable peg board being removable carried by one of the lid and base.
5. The container of claim 1, further comprising a movable divider carried by the food tray.
6. The container of claim 1, wherein the removable inner tray includes a gasket that seals the tray when the tray is closed.
7. The container of claim 6, wherein the removable inner food tray is held closed when the lid and base of the outer case are closed.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/212,378 filed Apr. 10, 2009; the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Technical Field
The invention generally relates to storage containers and, more particularly, to food transport and storage containers. The invention also relates to storage container that may be personalized by the user. Specifically, the invention provides a personalizable food storage container having an inner food tray having different customizable compartments that may be individually cooled.
2. Background Information
In packing lunch for my twin son and daughter, I have encountered many lunch containers which are ineffective. Many of the lids are too hard for even an adult to remove. Many of the compartments can barely hold a full-sized sandwich and one side item let alone two or three side dishes (e.g. carrots, chips and a cookie). Many require the use of disposable materials such as tin foil or plastic wrap or other type of sealing material for the sandwich or side dishes. The containers do not allow for effective individual cooling of selective food items (e.g. cooling the sandwich but not the chips or cookie).
There is also a desire for the personalization of a lunchbox by the user. A personalization option allows the parent packing a lunch to provide a message to the child during the school day. Personalization also allows the child to customize the container.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The invention provides a storage container having an outer case that defines a plurality of cooling areas adapted to receive individual cooling packs. A food storage tray is carried within the outer case. The food storage container has individual compartments that are aligned with the cooling areas. Cooling packs may be selectively placed in the cooling areas to cool selected compartments of the food tray. The inner food tray may carry a separate latch or may be held closed by the outer case.
The invention also provides a configuration wherein the food storage tray is provided with movable dividers to allow the user to customize the size and configuration of the compartments in the food storage tray.
In one configuration, the food storage tray has a lid that seals with a base to seal the individual storage compartments.
In one configuration, the invention provides a food container having a built in dry erase board and a dry erase pen. A reusable fork and spoon may be removably secured to the inside of the outer lid. A common mount may be used to hold the dry erase board, the pen, and a napkin.
The invention also provides a configuration having a drink holder that fits within one of the compartments of the food tray.
In one configuration, the invention provides a storage container in combination with a removable peg board for designated pegs to be inserted for personalization. Alternate boards may fit into the same pegboard slot with various images, such as sports team logos, names and holiday figures. The invention provides that the storage container used with the peg board may be a food storage container or another container.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the front of the container in a closed condition.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the outer lid of the container open to expose the inner food tray.
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the inner food tray in an opened position.
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the outer base and lid of the container opened with the inner food tray removed showing the cooling areas that selectively receive the ice packs to cool selective areas of the inner food tray.
FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of an exemplary configuration of the container of FIG. 1.
FIG. 6A is an exploded perspective view of an exemplary peg used with the peg board of the container.
FIG. 6B is a longitudinal section view of the peg of FIG. 6A.
FIG. 6C is a view similar to FIG. 6B with the two portions connected.
Similar numbers refer to similar parts throughout the specification.
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
An exemplary configuration of a personalizable storage container is shown in the form of a lunch box in the accompany drawings and is indicated generally by the reference numeral 100. Container 100 is a complete food storage system and generally includes an outer case 102 (FIG. 4) and a removable inner food tray 104 (FIG. 3). Outer case 102 (FIG. 4) may be made from a hard, molded plastic in the shape of a rectangle with rounded corners. A handle 30 may be pivotably mounted to container 102 with hinges 19 that are disposed through bosses on container 100. A latch 15, 16, 18, 34 is provided to hold outer case 102 closed.
Container 102 generally includes a base 106 and a lid 108 that are movable between open and closed configurations with latch 15, 34 being used to maintain lid 108 in the closed and sealed condition. A hinge 5 may used to connect base 106 and lid 108. Hinge 5 also may be an integral living hinge to allow base 106 and lid 108 to be integrally molded.
The exterior of outer case 102 may include a placard 31 that carries the lunch box logo on it and a place for a piece of paper with the child's name and grade/teacher to be inserted. Below the placard 31 is a removable peg board 32 which can hold small, insertable pegs 110 (FIG. 6) with a familiar image on it (i.e. alphabetical letters, numbers, animated characters, sports figures or characters).
The inside of the outer case lid 108 receives a reusable fork 29 and spoon 6 that each has a hollowed area or opening defined by their lower portions which attaches to lid 108 by pushing them onto a protruding piece of plastic 112. The connection may be a releasable and reusable snap fit. In between fork 29 and spoon 6 and centered on the inside of lid 108 is a rectangular dry erase board 3. One elongated mount 2 is secured to lid 108 behind dry erase board 3 to hold a dry erase pen 4 above dry erase board 3. Mount 2 provides a tab 114 that holds a reusable napkin below dry erase board 3 between mount 2 and lid 108.
Base 106 of outer case 102 defines a plurality of cooling areas 120 that each removably receives a cooling pack 20, 21, 22. There may be five cooling areas 120. Cooling areas 120 may be separated by walls that may be full height of partial height. Each wall may contact the base 23 of food tray 104. Cooling areas may be integrally formed in base 106 or in a cover 17 that fits within base 106. Cooling packs 21 and 22 may be mirror images of each other so that they may fit in multiple cooling areas 120. The top two cooling packs 22 are the same shape being long and narrow with rounded sides, centered below that there is a square cooling pack 20 surrounded by two square shaped packs 21 with rounded sides. There are finger indentations 35 defined by each cooling area 120 to allow for the easy removal of the pack 20, 21, 22. There is a hidden insulation layer 26 made up of EPS insulating foam which is disposed under insulation cover 17, between the bottom of the ice packs 20, 21, 22 and inner surface of base 106. Layer 26 acts to prevent base 106 from being cooled and gathering condensation.
On top of the cooling packs sits inner food tray 104 that includes a base 23 and a lid 7 movable between open and closed conditions. Tray 104 may be made from a clear plastic material. Tray 104 is rectangular in shape with rounded sides to fit within outer case 102. Tray 104 has a lid 7 that closes and seals onto the tray base 23 which attaches by a gooseneck hinge mechanism 23A that is secured to the tray base 23. When the lid 7 closes onto the tray base 23 a seal is formed by the use of a gasket lining 23B which is disposed on top of the perimeter of tray base 23 and tray base fixed dividers 23C, 23D and movable dividers 8, 9 which may be selectively inserted into tray base 23 as desired. The gasket may be made from a thermoplastic elastomeric material. Lid 7 is held closed by a clamping force applied when outer case 102 is closed shut by its latch. The clamping force compresses the gasket to seal tray 104. A rib (shown in FIGS. 2, 4, and 5) may project from the inner surface of lid 108 outwardly of fork 29 and spoon 6 and above pen 4 and below tab 114. This rib engages the outer surface of lid 7 near the perimeter of lid 7 to press lid 7 closed when outer case 102 is latched closed.
The tray base 23 includes two fixed plastic dividers 23C, 23D and two adjustable plastic dividers 8, 9 which are designed to not lean or shift positions by using a wide flange 8A and 9A on their bottoms and sides. One fixed divider 23C is horizontal and extends the full length of the tray base 23. The other fixed divider 23D is vertical and is in the bottom portion of the tray below the fixed horizontal divider 23C. One of the vertical adjustable dividers 9 is sized for use in the top portion of tray base 23 and the other 8 is sized for use in the bottom portion of tray base 23. The two adjustable dividers 8, 9 can slide within their portion of the tray base 23 to change the size of the compartment to allow for more or less of that food item. The dividers may be used to create compartments that are aligned with cooling areas 120.
The bottom vertical fixed divider 23D creates a compartment in the bottom right hand portion of tray base 23. In that compartment there is a removable drink container 10, 11, 12. Container 10 may be clear on the body and colored on the removable lid 11. The lid 11 has a retractable straw 12. The body of the drink container has an indent 10A for finger placement. The drink container 10 is the same shape as the compartment 23E that receives container 10 such that container 10 has a rounded corner.
An accompanying small plastic container 27, 28 is included in the tray base 23 and may be placed in any of the compartments. This container 27, 28 may be small and rectangular in shape with a removable colored lid 28 and a rectangular base 27 and may be filled with dip or sauce or condiment.
All features of this lunch box 100 may be made from any material including but not limited to plastic, metal and/or rubber. All colors may be used in this lunch box including but not limited to opaque, clear, blue, green and yellow.
This versatile lunch box 100 may be appealing for carrying a meal to school, work, vacation and other occasions where food is to be provided. An adult version of the box will also be available without the peg board or name card.
In the exemplary configuration, container 100 includes: (1) a container of sufficient size which allows for a sandwich and 2-3 side items; (2) a lid which is easy to remove yet will contain the food without leakage; (3) a totally "green" product which will create no waste and will be reusable; (4) a container which will allows the cooling of certain food items while not cooling others.
Another consideration in the design of the lunch box is the personalization of the box through messaging and personal expression. First, the dry erase board on the inside of the box which may serve as a place for a caregiver to write a loving sentiment or simply an important daily reminder to the child. Second, the peg board on the outside of the box may hold individual pegs which allow the child to represent their interests or personal style. He or she can spell out their name or use numbers and various characters that he or she feels are special. The pegs may be traded among friends and continually purchased for all holidays and special occasions.
In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed. Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described. For example, the different features of the container may be used in different combinations to provide alternate configurations of the container. Throughout the description and claims of this specification the word "comprise" and variations of that word, such as "comprises" and "comprising," are not intended to exclude additives, components, integers, or steps.
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