Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Technology Help for Parents Navigating School Lunches

Technology Help for Parents Navigating School Lunches

Parents send their kids off to school each year and every morning, hoping that they will eat breakfast at school and pick food at lunch that they will actually eat.

Many parents worry their kids are too rushed to eat right or “too social” to care about what’s on their plate.

Our fear is that they are hungry during the day and find it hard to pay attention to learning.

We wonder if they have enough money to buy lunch sometimes, too.

Because we are all so busy, sometimes giving them lunch money or talking about what they eat at school that day can easily be overlooked as we struggle to get where we have to go each day including our jobs!

Enter technology!

Apps and the Web to the Rescue

Technology can help us connect with our friends and family but it can also help us take some control over what our kids eat at school!

Many school districts are creating their own apps or website portals that can help parents stay informed about the meals that are being served each day as well as additional valuable school based information.

This technology, accessible from home or work computers and mobile devices, can help you decide if there are days ideal for buying lunch or days when the kids will not eat the food their school cafeteria serves and will miss out on energy to fuel their day.

Parents can also upload money to the lunch account so there are funds available for their child to buy a meal, especially if they forget their lunch.

school lunch app screenshotIf your school does not have their own app or website dedicated to their food service yet, there is a free app called Nutrislice that allows parents to choose their state and their child’s specific school by name. From there it will show the planned school lunch and even breakfast menus.

When available, Nutrislice shows nutritional information about the food served. Naturally this information will be only as accurate as it can be updated from the school district and into your app.

This app is available in both iOS and Android versions as are similar school food service based apps.

To take advantage of school nutrition and provide some nutrition education for our kids, there are several games that feature school lunch making in the app store.

These games give kids options for different kinds of lunches and let them build their own. They have visually appealing graphics and fun themes that keep kids attention.

One game lets your younger children select foods and do the cooking for themselves and the other kids at school.

Hopefully, exposure to photos of foods they don’t see often will help them to try new foods especially fruits and vegetables.

Benefits of Technology for Busy Families

During the hustle and bustle of their busy week, knowing that their children are well fed and nourished can be a struggle for many parents. Being able to feel confident that the food being served to them at breakfast and lunch at school is nutritious but mostly accepted can be a great relief.

Let’s face it – they aren’t eating everything they get served and some kids are probably throwing away more than we think when we send them to school each day. Whether they buy school lunch or bring their food from home, they may not be eating as much as they should or we hope they are.

Knowing which days could be problematic when they will need to have a lunch from home can improve their health and also their school performance when they are sufficiently fueled for the day.

Here are some benefits for being able to link through technology to the school kitchen:

  • Kids with allergies can select which foods and which days are essential for bringing food from home. Kids want to be like everyone else so being able to buy lunch at school sometimes instead of fearing what might do them harm when go through the cafeteria line will help them be a part of the crowd and healthy.
  • Parents have an simply way to keep their children’s lunch account funded without fear of sending cash to school. They can pay by credit card electronically, monitor the balance and be sure they aren’t buying lunch for the class! The pre-pay programs are secure, online systems to manage their meal accounts. They also provide prices for items on the menu so that you have the information you need to manage your food budget.
  • Parents can learn about nutrition with the information shared by the school foodservice professionals. Knowledge is power and this is an easy way to get more information about food and nutrition.
  • Many school districts provide nutrition analysis for their menu items to help parents decide which food choices are best for each individual child.
  • Families can spend a little time talking with their children about good food choices, review the upcoming week menus to decide which days to bring versus buy and what foods they enjoy and may want to have for dinner too! This information can open a dialogue about food, cooking and health.
  • An app can be a private portal for the family to apply for free or reduced cost meals. Many school districts link to the application form and allow you to submit your application in a secure and personal manner.
  • School districts that have this foodservice information on a website portal also offer great information that is helpful to families such as bus routes, activities, events, tutor information, and links to helpful educational resources for parents of all age students.
  • Many school districts also post inspection results on their websites. Who wouldn’t love to have that much transparency to see what is going on in the kitchen?
  • We can also find contact information for the key staff in the operation of the foodservice operations, some even share policies and promotional information.
  • Learn more about farm to school initiatives, wellness programs, summer programs, Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Program (FFVP), Fuel Up for 60 and a host of other nutrition related happenings that make school foodservice shine to benefit the kids!

I wish I had this information available to me when my kids were in school! It would have saved a lot of time preparing bag lunches when their favorite items were being served.

Our family didn’t always know what was on the menu so rarely took advantage of school food service! Now technology will help you if you access it!

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