Reduce food waste, save time, money AND meet parent expectations?
Yes. Schools really can have it all.
School meals have never been so popular. Improved food nutritional standards, increased food choice and UiFSM have all had a part to play.
Increased interest in meals has meant schools and caterers need to find additional time and resource required to continually meet parents’ expectations.
Inefficiencies in the meal administration process are impacting both on teaching time in the classroom and school budgets.
Added to this, school leadership teams have a duty of care to ensure children are eating not only healthily, but also safely.
Turning challenges into opportunities
More staff time is required to collect the school meal orders, manage attendance and securely handle sensitive, important dietary and medical data. And in primary schools especially, it is eating into teaching time at a crucial stage in children’s education development. Much of the school meal administration is still done on paper which, in itself, poses different issues e.g. data being lost, manual errors being made.
Nicola Howard, of the ParentPay Group, recognises the challenges schools face:
“ParentPay together with Cypad, already help 14,000 schools go cashless and paperless to become safer and more efficient places. Considering our pivotal role, it’s right that schools and caterers expect us to continually adapt, remove the pain points and help deliver a best in class school meals service.”
Meeting parents’ needs is making schools more efficient and safer
In an age where parents have an expectation that children should have choice and eat the ‘right food’ at school, for ParentPay and Cypad focus has been on helping schools meet this need.
The latest ground-breaking development from the group is Meal Manager, which not only allows families to select and pay for school meals easily online, but also see meal nutritional information – helping everyone make informed choices about what food they are going to eat.
Despite being a relatively new development, Nicola feels Meal Manager is already making a positive impact on schools:
“Meeting parental expectation has worked to benefit schools and caterers. Selecting food choices in advance makes great business sense, saving teacher staff time previously required to record this information in class and pass it to the caterer. Knowing what food to order and prepare for in advance also helps cuts down waste and maximise profit.”
Nicola added: “As market leader, we’ve kept evolving. Parents expect to be involved in their child’s nutrition and schools need smarter, more efficient ways to manage school meals. Meal Manager is answering both these needs and schools, parents and caterers have been very positive about its introduction.
“It’s all about connecting the home, the classroom and the school kitchen, providing total transparency and real-time efficiency.”
Helping schools go ‘food safe’
It’s been estimated that around 8% of children in the UK now have some form of food related allergy, so keeping children ‘food safe’ has been increasingly more important to school leadership teams.
Nicola commented: “If food contains ingredients that are harmful to a child, the system does not display that particular meal option. Simple. Meal Manager helps reduce the risks associated with a paper-based system.”
Food education – make it fun and engaging
Meal Manager helps schools meet their commitments to food education in the curriculum, giving teaching staff a fantastic opportunity to enable children learn more about the food they are eating, where it comes from and how to make it sustainable.
The interactive meal selection really engages children, whilst giving teaching staff and parents an opportunity to talk about the food children are eating at school, learn where the ingredients come from and how food is produced. Nicola was excited when she first saw Meal Manager in action in the classroom:
“It was captivating. Children were learning about school food and having great fun selecting their lunch on the whiteboard.
“The next day the school reported that more children had moved from packed lunches to school dinners.”
Nicola stated ParentPay’s aims: “Initially, we just wanted our cashless payment system to make schools safe, efficient places but we realised that we’re in a great position to help schools not only keep children food safe, but create opportunities for food education.
“For us it’s more than just about school meal selections and payments. There’s a lot more to it than that.”
What schools are saying about Meal Manager…
Clare Welch of St Peter and St Paul CE Primary, North Lincolnshire was impressed by the positive impact ParentPay Meal Manager was having:
“It’s easy to report on meal numbers for the kitchen as we use classroom selection, which allows meals to be chosen at registration. We know numbers and meal choices in advance.”
Clare felt that the end-to-end paperless management of school meals was paying dividends for St Peter & St Pauls:
“This makes the dinner service much more efficient, and the children love it.”