New site makes lunch easier

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nobody wants their kids to be the ones scrounging for spare quarters at the lunch table because they accidentally left their money at home.

Now, Suffolk Public Schools has launched a Web site aimed at helping ease just that problem.

At the beginning of this month, all the system’s students had access to The site allows parents to go online and prepay for their students’ meals. The children then enter pin numbers to pay for meals at the lunch line.

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“Our system is linked automatically, so when the parent makes the prepayment at the Web site, it takes an hour to two hours and then it shows up on the student’s account,” said Brian Williams, the food services supervisor for SPS. “It’s been very well received, and parents are very excited about the program.”

Parents register at the site and use a credit or debit card to prepay. The site is secure, meaning all personal and financial information is protected, as well as the student’s information.

But the site does more than just provide an easy way for students to pay for lunch.

Parents can monitor what their children have been ordering at school to make sure they are not burning through their accounts.

“Parents have the ability to go online and view their child’s purchases for the past week,” Williams said. “They can see whether their child is eating meals that they shouldn’t be eating or vice versa, if they aren’t eating at all.”

Additionally, the site will notify parents with an e-mail if their child’s account is getting too low in order to ensure the account never expires on a student without notice.

Williams added that the site is not just a good tool for parents, but also for the students.

With fewer students paying with cash, less money is being handled by employees, which cuts down on line length for students.

The site had a trial run in mid-April with just seven elementary schools. The trial was so successful, the school system expanded the program to include all 22 schools by early May.

Since its launch, the site has registered more than 1,000 students and has collected more than $14,000 in prepayment online transactions.

Down the road, Williams said parents would have even more control of their children’s lunch purchases.

“Eventually, we hope to have the feature where parents can set up a daily spending limit for their children,” Williams said. “But there are a pile of kinks we have to work out before we get that completely implemented.”

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