SeeMyPlate spills the milk about student lunch habits

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By Ron Benningfield

A picture is worth a thousand words.
That’s the idea behind a new program, SeeMyPlate, being introduced for the first time this year in LaRue County Schools.
“It is a fabulous feature that allows the parents to see their child’s actual lunch tray along with the transaction history,” said DeeAnne Sanders, LaRue County Schools’ coordinator of nutrition.   
SeeMyPlate is part of the My School Bucks online payment system offered to parents that coordinates with software at the cafeteria checkout. My School Bucks allows parents to use debit and credit cards to put money into their children’s lunch accounts. The program’s Point of Sale Lunchbox software is part of Heartland Payment Systems.
Angie Kee, food service manager at LaRue County High School, said the photos of the trays with food items students select help clarify questions parents may have about what and how much their children are eating.
“For instance, before this program, the record of a student purchasing a meal may have only shown “entrée” without specifying what food it was, but the tray with each entree pictured will plainly show the items purchased,” she explained.
The process doesn’t slow the food line, either, according to Kee. With 480-90 students to feed at lunch during a two-hour period, keeping the line moving is an important consideration.
As a student slides his tray to the end of the serving line, he places the tray between two marked lines. When the cashier enters the transaction for the meal, a camera snaps a photo of the tray, connecting the picture with the student’s account number which he has entered onto a keypad.
Parents must know the account number and a password to log onto their child’s account and to view the picture of the transaction via the Internet.
 “The parents can readily see what food and how much their children are buying,” said Kee. “If the child buys an extra slice of pizza, for example, it will show on the tray.”
The service also allows parents to see nutritional information for purchases their children make.  
As with any new program, SeeMyPlate has had some glitches which Heartland Payment Systems is working to correct. Once that is completed, district schools will use the program both for breakfast and lunch.  
LaRue County became a test district for the new service when students returned from Christmas break.
There is no cost to parents or the district to view students’ purchases.