Taking Cash Out of Schools
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.
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.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, innovative technology such as pre-order apps and cashless catering products have come into a league of their own. From improving the flow of traffic within the school dining hall to helping schools to maintain social distancing guidelines by enabling students to use their mobile devices to select their food options anytime, anywhere, pre-order apps such as ami Education’s Infinity+ Order have really proved their worth in the past year.
However, with so many more untold benefits, it’s clear to say that the peak of school meal pre-ordering is far from over.
Why do we need pre-ordering after lockdown?
Outside of the context of COVID-19, pre-ordering technology still holds value. According to a recent Footprint Intelligence Report, 41% of foodservice professionals said that pre-ordering systems have reduced food wastage and increased lunchtime efficiencies in schools where they are implemented.
Maintaining a streamlined lunchtime service is also vital for reducing the stress of school caterers who have worked tirelessly to provide students with meals during the pandemic, and when students select their meals ahead of time, it enables catering teams to produce the exact amount of food required. This eradicates the need for over-catering and cuts down on food wastage, which is better for school budgets, catering staff, and the planet.
Cutting down on food wastage isn’t the only way pre-ordering is helping schools to reach their sustainability targets. The Infinity+ Order app provides full records of past orders, and the online payment integration means that receipts no longer need to be printed out at POS, saving paper and needless spending on printing.
Moreover, the powerful reporting suite helps predict trends that can help with accurate stock control to save schools money and food from ending up in the cafeteria bin.
It’s not just the environmental factors attracting schools towards the pre-ordering revolution. Cashless catering apps such as Infinity+ Order are widely accessible on mainstream download platforms such as the App Store or Google Play, meaning that any student with a smartphone can gain access to the ease of pre-ordering in just a few clicks.
This ability to order snacks and meals from a personal device also gives students claiming free school meals added anonymity throughout the ordering and collection process, ensuring that FSM students are comfortable in the dining hall.
As schools adapt to the new normal, their primary goal will be to help students who may have fallen behind catch up to where they need to be. Pre-order apps can help with this task by reducing the amount of time spent queuing, meaning that pupils can get back to lunchtime catchup clubs as soon as possible.
Ordering meals in advance also removes hunger-based decisions, which often consist of unhealthy snacks and drinks - encouraging pupils to pick a fully nutritious meal that can power them through the day and improve their concentration in class.
What’s not to love? Find out more about implementing pre-ordering into your education environment here to access a world of benefits: https://www.amieducation.com/pre-order-app
Today, it’s the return of International School Meals Day for its ninth year running. The awareness day aims to highlight the options for affordable and nutritious meals for schools, whilst exploring the links between good food and the mental and physical health of children.
The theme for 2021 is ‘Eat for the Health of it,’ which gives children, businesses, and communities the opportunity to come together and share their thoughts, knowledge, and opinions regarding school meals. We’re looking at the importance of nutritious school meals and the effects on a pupil’s ability to learn.
Why are healthy school meals so important?
Not only are schools required by law to serve nutritious school lunches containing high-quality meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and bread, but they also provide the fuel for a more productive day of learning for students.
Eating a nutritious plate of food at lunchtime is proven to boost the attention span and alertness of pupils in the classroom in comparison to those who consume poor meals in the canteen. According to a study published by The Atlantic in 2018, it was discovered that schools that held a contract with healthier school catering services also performed better in state examinations, further boosting the reasoning for school meals to be at the forefront of industry conversation.
But school meals are not only important for boosting concentration. They are also the main source of nutrition for students during a key period of their development, providing the vital calories they need to maintain their physical wellbeing. Recent conversations - particularly those around food insecurity which is on the rise and had been experienced by 2.3million children between March and August in 2020 alone (End Child Food Poverty) are now more noteworthy than ever and have further elevated the importance of getting a nutritious, hot school meal out to children who otherwise may not receive the food that they need.
Students claiming free school meals are especially vulnerable in this area, so assuring they have access to at least one good meal at school is pivotal to not only their health but to the quality of their education as well.
How can I get involved in International School Meals Day 2021?
There are many ways to get involved in the event, but there is also the freedom to take part in any way that best suits you, your organisation or classroom! Here are some suggestions:
- Have an International Menu Day, featuring food from around the world
- Run food tasting sessions or hold other fun food-related activities
- Host cooking activities with an international theme
- Hold fundraising activities for charities to support school feeding programmes in developing countries
- Incorporate global citizenship, food culture and healthy eating into classroom learning
- Run seminars, workshops or events related to food traditions, ceremonies, or celebrations
- Research and publish information relating to school foods and the benefits of healthy eating
The most important thing, however, is not to just take a single day to promote the importance of school meals but to continually highlight the impact they have on the lives of young people all year round and implement changes to ensure they continue to make healthy food choices at mealtimes. Pre-ordering software such as AMI’s Infinity+ Order App are leading the way in encouraging children to eat healthily by removing hunger-based, spontaneous selections in the lunch queue, among other benefits which you can read about in our blog.
Whichever way you decide to celebrate #InternationalSchoolMealsDay, we hope you have a great time! For more information, please visit the official ISMD website: http://internationalschoolmealsday.com/.