Feeding Students On The Go with 21st Century Technology

When walking the exhibit floor of the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) Annual National Conference (ANC) in Las Vegas last week, it was hard not to notice that technology and making school meals more mobile friendly were two of the biggest trends discussed.

With the ever-increasing need for technology, especially at a younger age, printed out menus on extra hot pink paper just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Children of today are used to everything being one click away.

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Students or parents can look through different schools in their district and choose a meal, based on nutrition facts and ingredients.

For high schools competing with open campus policies, studies have shown that one in four children have ordered “fast food delivery” to their school.

According to an ANC education session about “Catching Kids on the Go,” at least 98 percent of Generation Z owns a smartphone. At least five tech companies attended ANC this year, with the latest digital applications to make meal choices easier for students and more informative for parents. With just one click, parents can see menus for breakfast and lunch, nutrition information, side dish options, ingredients and even specific items that would affect a student with any food-related allergies or dietary restrictions.

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Students can pre-order their school meals on kiosks, which use the digital menu app.

Michael Craig, the co-founder of Nutrislice, one of the digital ordering and menu companies used by school districts, said it’s all about the student, making their choices easier, healthier and faster – similar to the way restaurants cater to their customers in 2018. With the rise in technology, students are also receiving texts about any menu changes or sales, allowing real-time notifications to affect their meal choices in school. There are kiosks around the school for students who can’t have a cell phone and the app is also available on school computers. Part of the technology advances include interactive and changing digital menu signage as well.

Food trucks in schools are nothing new for some districts, looking to expand their options and mobility to students even further. Jennifer Smith and Kristan Hayden, the Food and Nutrition Services marketing team for Orange County Public Schools in Florida, presented their latest success story – a food golf cart.

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Golf cart in Orange County Public Schools (FL) bring pre-ordered meals to students around campus.

This new mobile unit allows students to custom-order a lunch and it will be delivered in certain locations around school or campus moments later. With just the implementation of a golf cart delivery system, participation in school meals increased by six percent, but there was also an increase of 12.5 percent when the customization aspect was implemented.

Pre-order has also become a big trend using the latest in school menu technology, where parents can pre-order their child’s lunch, customize it and even include a note of encouragement to their student.

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