Home > Biometrics, Technology > St. Joseph takes lunchtime high tech

St. Joseph takes lunchtime high tech

August 18, 2011


Drake Aymond reaches out to use a palm scanner that relays information to the cafeteria computer at St. Joseph Catholic School. The new system provides a secure way to keep track of lunch balances, decreases the amount of time in lunch lines and provides security for each student’s account. / Jim Hudelson/The Times

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School are moving through the lunch line faster than ever thanks to biometric hand scanners.

The school, which houses more than 500 prekindergarten through eighth-grade students, this week began using new palm scanners in its cafeteria as a means for students to purchase lunch. The scanner creates an image of the student’s palm and relays that information to a database where the student’s account information is stored.

With the scan of a palm, the scanner is able to show medical and allergy information, as well as keep a running account balance that can notify parents when it becomes low.

Previously, the school used lunch identification numbers for students, but Principal Susan Belanger said the new technology makes lunchtime seamless.

“This technology not only expedites the process of purchasing lunch, which allows students more time to eat rather than stand in line, but it also takes the guess work out of lunch for students who may forget their ID number or any number of things.”

First-grader Audrey St. Amant said getting through the lunch line was easier than in previous years because of the scanners.

“I like it because I don’t have to remember my number, and it made it faster than last year.”

While new to the area, districts nationwide, including schools in Pittsburgh and Pinellas County, Fla., have used the technology for years.

Belanger said an added benefit with the new devices is the ability for parents to easily add money to a student’s account from the nearest computer, as well as see a daily update of what their child is eating.

Parents also can set their account to send them alerts when an account balance drops below a set threshold.

“It’s easier than ever for our parents,” she said. “If a parent drops their child off and forgets to give them a check for their lunch account and that balance is low, they can add that money from their office or home, and within minutes, a child is able to access those funds.”

St. Joseph’s teachers agree the scanner is a useful tool that benefits students and parents alike.

“They’re excited to go through the line and try it out,” said Eileen Roper, a first-grade teacher. “It’s something new for them, and it makes things so much easier for our students, particularly our youngest ones, to not have to worry about what their number is or remembering their money.”

The scanners were purchased by the Diocese of Shreveport as a way to incorporate technology not only in the classroom, but throughout a student’s school experience. Parents are charged a processing fee to defray some of the costs associated with the device.

“For us, this is a means to show technology is in every facet of our lives,” Belanger said. “Our students are comfortable with technology from the use of iPads with our middle schoolers to all of our students having eased access to computers. This is one more way we are able to reach our students with technology.”

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