Recently I read School Lunch Fingerprint Technology in Motion on EdWeek.org. At every school in which I have worked in Chicago Public Schools, children get laminated, paper lunch tickets with their names written on them. They turn the tickets into the lunch ladies for their lunch at the end of the lunch line and the lunch ladies make tally marks in pencil on a sheet of paper. I have wondered about the efficiency of that system…
1) Automation leads to savings I think the lunch line should be modernized to save money, as well as errors in tallying. I don’t remember where I read or saw it (maybe it was the movie Lunch Line or Chef Ann Cooper), but money is saved when when school cafeterias are automated. All I remember is that the savings are substantial. (I hate not having exact information, but I think this is important to mention).
2) Reduced stigma of free/reduced lunches With older kids who are more aware about having a lunch ticket and what that might mean about the family’s money situation, I think it would be great if all kids could simply punch in a number or use their thumbprint to get their lunch and then no one would know who paid what. Most kids that I worked with were too young to be stigmatized by holding a lunch ticket and the kids who packed their lunches didn’t seem to care, but they sure noticed what was on their friends’ trays. Trade a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a small bag of flaming hot cheetos? Yes.
3) Moving faster in line Certainly the children who pack their lunches are able to breeze through the line and get seated in the cafeteria first. The kids with the lunch line are *usually* not slowed down by their paper tickets, but just by the sheer number of children making their way through the line. If automation gives back a few minutes, that would be valuable considering how short lunch periods are.
4) Instant data tracking What are kids buying? Are certain menu items more popular than others? Without hard numbers, administrators can only guess. Even better — let’s track food waster AFTER the meal to see what is thrown out.
5) Parents can track food consumption If the data is shared by email or online with parents, they can find out what their children are eating at lunch and whether or not they are purchasing ala carte items with banked funds. As it currently stands, parents can only wonder.