Students eating lunch

Taking Cash Out of Schools

Students eating lunch

With automated payment methods and debit cards replacing traditional cash payments, it is becoming more common within businesses, industries and now most recently schools to also make the switch to cashless. Figures from the Payments Council published on Education Business reveal that cashless payments overtook traditional cash payments in 2014 for the first time.

 

What are the benefits to schools going cashless?

 

There are many benefits of switching to cashless systems, one of which is the effect on a school’s budget and resources. Offering parents the ability to review their expenses and top-up their child’s online account is a great way to boost a school’s income and spend per pupil.

 

Although small payments such as those regularly made by parents for school meals, uniform and educational trips contribute considerably to the overall income of a school, they can also create a market deficit when they go unpaid. 'Dinner money debt' is now a serious concern for schools, with one council in Wales recently revealing a debt of over £130,000 aggregated over five years. With a cashless system, the potential for unpaid fees is diminished.

 

Furthermore, budgets are benefited by taking cash out of schools by saving the hefty cost of the physical collection of cash to deposit at a bank. Ami’s cashless software generates daily, weekly or monthly reports with ease, providing access to reports on meals consumed, overdue accounts and food wastage, all of which contribute to lowering costs and reduced administration time.

 

As for the benefit of a school’s resources, cashless catering systems free up a considerable amount of time for the administration staff. Taking cash out of schools means the tiresome task of physically collecting and chasing cash payments from pupils and parents via mail and telephone can be cut down entirely.

 

Software such as ami’s Infinity and Transact frees up these important resources and allows them to be used in other ways. Administration staff can monitor payments and view historic purchases with ease and make audit trailing a lot more efficient. Schools in the UK using cashless software have saved on average two and a half days administration time a month.

 

AMI

 

How do cashless schools benefit parents and students?

 

Taking cash out of the school system is not only time saving, but for parents, it gives them the peace of mind that money is being spent in the way it is intended with online payments. Pre-paid school meals mean parents know that the money they give their children for healthy, nutritious meals, is being spent on just that!

Additionally, parents no longer need to send cash or cheques for circumstances such as school trips or extra-curricular activities. 90 per cent of parents stated that they preferred to pay online, according to a survey from LACA.

 

Ami’s cashless catering solutions also increase parent convenience and control as they are accessible from any location with an internet connection, optimising the increasing access parents have to computer and hand-held devices. According to The Telegraph, almost one in 10 public school pupils are from overseas and so this level of access is especially useful for those families.

 

What are the benefits of removing physical cash from schools?

 

Removing physical cash from schools allows for greater student safety. Adopting a cashless system prevents age-old issues such as bullying, lunch money theft and potential misplacement or loss and eliminates any money safety issues. Students also no longer need to worry about forgetting to take cash to school with them and missing out on things such as meals, as they are already pre-ordered and paid for.

 

How can going cashless make a school more efficient?

 

Ami’s cashless catering software is flexible and works around each school's requirements. During lunchtimes, for example, cashless software systems provide important time-saving benefits such as reducing queues. Schools can cut down lengthy waiting times for their students and staff through quick and simple identification methods such as PINs, pre-order kiosks and more.

 

With the ability to pre-order meals in advance, food wastage is greatly minimised. Ami’s software allows school meal service providers (i.e. kitchens either on the school premises or elsewhere) to know exactly how many portions of each meal option to prepare that day, eliminating the need for over-catering and ensuring children receive the meal that they want.

 

What benefits does a cashless system have on a social level?

 

Cashless catering software removes any potential discrimination of students by providing ‘Free School Meals’ (FSM) anonymity. A recent LACA survey revealed that 4.9 per cent of pupils entitled to a free meal do not take up their entitlement. The stigma of FSM is still very much apparent in schools, yet with a cashless system, all students have the same method of payment option, regardless of their circumstance.

 

Cashless systems have also been proven to promote healthy eating as it encourages pupils to eat the nutritious meals provided, something which is exceedingly important when tackling the childhood obesity crisis and leading to a better learning environment. Mealtime pre-ordering encourages parent engagement and allows parents to control what their children are consuming in the hours they are not with them.

Education
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What school lunches look like around the world

When it comes to school lunches, options differ drastically by each country, from four-course meals consisting of roast beef, tabbouleh and apple tart in France to spaghetti with seafood sauce and fish fillet au gratin in Italy, each country offers its own unique meal choices for school pupils.

 

Children across the globe are offered a variety of foods to tuck into at lunchtime, and we’re looking at what school lunches around the world look like and how these differ in terms of nutrition and variety.

 

United Kingdom

 

2000s

(Teaching Abroad)

 

Starting with the home country of AMI’s headquarters, UK’s school canteens have seen drastic changes to the food provided over the years, with a dramatic shift toward more nutritional food in recent years, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign in the noughties. Oliver’s campaign increased the standards of school meals and reduced saturated fat, sugar and salt present in the food served to children.

 

Today, lunch options in the UK are far more varied, with an increased number of options for different dietary preferences, and Research by the Children’s Food Trust shows that school meals in the UK are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, providing children with a better foundation for good health. Typical hot school lunches include vegetarian lasagne, pasta bake, fresh salads, jam roly-poly and more; fresh, healthy options with some old classics added in.

 

France

 

France

(Sweetgreen)

 

Known for its culinary delights, France offers its pupils slightly more decadent options, including brie, steak, and apple tart to name a few, whilst adhering to strict nutritional regulations concerning portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods. For example, starters containing more than 15% fat can be served no more than 4 out of 20 days, which means that salads, grilled chicken with grains and even roast guinea fowl make regular appearances on French school menus.

 

Italy

 

School

(Sweetgreen)

 

As a nation with a healthier, and perhaps more inclusive attitude toward food, it is no surprise that Italians focus on setting up children for healthy eating habits in adult life, and school lunches are the perfect way to promote healthy eating practices. Guidelines state that Italian school lunches must include a starchy dish such as rice or pasta, a main course such as meat, fish, cheese, two or more vegetable side dishes, and plenty of fruit.

 

Besides, Italian law is much stricter regarding unhealthy food on school menus and forbids cafeterias from serving deep-fried food such as chips and fried chicken. Therefore, popular lunch items include minestrone, mushroom risotto, and the occasional scoop of gelato.

 

Greece

 

School

 

Unlike the other countries in this list, lunch is considered the main meal of the day in Greece, which means pupils often eat lunch at home or bring a packed lunch into school and therefore, many schools don’t offer subsidized school lunches. However, schools that do serve lunch offer options such as baked chicken with orzo, cucumber and tomato salad, stuffed vine leaves and yoghurt with fruit for dessert.

 

Sweden

 

School

(Casey Lehman)

 

Research shows that receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduce food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor health, and what sets Sweden apart from the other countries is the fact that since 1997, all children in the country have access to a free hot school lunch, which consists of a hot meal, salad buffet, bread and a drink, with vegetarians options available to all.

 

Desserts and soft drinks, however, are not served, and options such as pizza and deep-fried food have been removed in recent years, with a focus on healthy and sustainable meal options such as meat or vegetable stew with potatoes, pasta with sauce, and knäckebröd, Sweden’s famous crispy bread.

 

Japan

 

School

(The Japan Guy)

 

In Japan, school lunches are offered to nursery and middle school children and are served in the classroom, with an emphasis on nutrition education and teaching pupils how to cook healthy food from scratch and making students aware of the nutritional components of the food they’re eating. Unsurprisingly, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, which is likely a result of offering pupils food such as miso soup with pork, rice with grilled fish, milk, and dried fruit for dessert.

 

South Korea

 

School

(Sweetgreen)

 

South Korea is another country known for its healthy school lunch offerings and emphasis on health education. Since pupils are encouraged to partake in various extracurricular activities after school, pupils need to be served healthy lunch options that will sustain them into the evening. Popular dishes include fried rice with tofu, kimchi, fish soup and mixed green vegetables.

 

America

 

School

 

Last but certainly not least, America is a country famous for its plethora of junk food offerings and fast food outlets on every corner. In US schools, the National School Lunch Programme provides low-cost or free school lunches to 31 million students at more than 100,000 schools per day, and meals must meet the nutritional standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

 

However, tight budgets and unhealthy school vendors have meant that lunches served in some US schools (but not all) are highly processed and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. These lunches often look like popcorn chicken with French fries, mashed potatoes, and for dessert, fruit cups and chocolate chip cookies.

 

Resources for schools:

Education
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Why pre-ordering meals is important for schools

Pre-Ordering School Meals

 

What are the benefits of Pre-Ordered school meals?

It has been reported that food wastage is currently costing schools over £250 million each year. Pre-ordering school meals dramatically reduces food wastage and associated costs.  The intervention of software aims to reduce food wastage by providing school meal service providers with exact numbers of meal portions that need to be prepared that day, eliminating the need for over-catering and ensuring children receive the meal that they want.

 

Although school caterers generally have information on the total number of pupils they are cooking for, in most schools, they have no information about the specific numbers for each meal option. Although they are skilled at estimating how many children will choose each meal, they have no real way of knowing the exact numbers and this lack of information can then result in food being wasted.

 

What are the benefits to students and parents of Pre-Ordered school meals?

With a system that allows pre-ordered school meals, children and parents can choose their preferred meal option meaning not only reduced wastage but better food education, encouragement of healthy food options and increased parental engagement.

 

According to BUPA, the UK has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with around 1 in 10 children aged 4 to 5 classified as obese, and around 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11. Pre-ordering meal software allows pupils to be actively involved in planning their meal choice and to take ownership of their diets.

 

To encourage students to select healthier foods, recent research has focused on how environmental changes and behavioural economics can guide children to make healthier choices. This includes the pre-ordering of lunch. Pre-ordering school meals could pre-empt hunger-based, spontaneous selections, and eliminate the sensory cues—evocative smells and sights—that lead to less healthy choices.

 

For a student, getting their choice of meal, feeling comfortable with the process, not being rushed, and not having to wait in long queues are seen as key elements for schools adopting a pre-ordered approach to school meals.

There is also the benefit for children with food allergies and intolerances, as a pre-ordered meal can be chosen in line with the necessary specifications

 

Pre-ordering school meals also benefit students by reducing queueing at mealtimes. The lunchtime rush becomes a much smoother experience when meals are already ordered and paid for, as children simply have to collect their chosen meal from the cafeteria. Reducing meal queuing times for students further means a reduced percentage of pupils favouring out-of-the-gate spending and in turn, this lowers the likelihood of excessive junk food being consumed leading to childhood obesity.

 

Pre-ordering is essentially pre-empting, and in today's society using technology to plan ahead is the most efficient way to control an entity such as a school. Technology enables schools to pre-plan,  taking the opportunity for human error and unnecessary time spent away, and allowing better use of school resources.