CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -- Cedar Rapids parents can now pay their child's school meal bills from their own home.
Friday, the district announced a new Point of Sale system where paretns can pay for meals as well as check account balances and history.
"The Food and Nutrition Department operates with the District's guiding philosophy of continuous improvement in mind," explained Suzy Ketelsen, Department Manager.
"In the past, the only means of notification regarding a student's account balance were letters generated twice a week at the elementary level and a verbal reminder during meal service for Middle and High School students. The Point of Sale system allows parents access to information at anytime," Ketelsen said.
The new web-based meal accounting system allows for real-time transaction and application processing and a higher level of confidentially for free and reduced students.
Secondary students now use pin pads and a scanner to pay for meals; elementary schools use touch screen classroom rosters. The system also allows parents to check balances and to make deposits to the family meal account at any time, with funds available.
"The new input devices improve the speed of the line, allowing students to have more time to eat and enjoy their meal," Ketelsen noted. "Customer satisfaction is very important to us."
As part of the budgeting process and to minimize the financial impact, the Food and Nutrition Department set aside funds to upgrade the system over the past several years. Maintaining meal prices despite rising food costs has always been a priority for the District, according to Ketelsen.
"We work hard to make school meals affordable for all students," Ketelsen noted. "With the recent disaster, it was very important to maintain prices this year so that students have the option to participate," said ketelsen.
Ketelsen credits several key areas with allowing the District to maintain meal prices in spite of rising food costs:
Well- planned menus.
Effective procurement processes, well-established vendor partnerships, and the maximum use of available USDA commodities.
An efficient staff that is committed to child nutrition and quality service, working to control waste and reduce the use of disposable products.
The last increase in school meal prices in the District went into effect July 2007. Prior to that, the last increase had been approved in July 2004.