Cell phone payment plan could end school cash lunches

SCHOOLS are trying out new technology that could spell the end of cash meal orders, in a pilot-tested world first in Victoria.

SCHOOLS are trying new technologies that could spell the end of ordering cash meals.

Eight Victorian schools are part of the world’s first pilot project in which parents pay for their children’s meals using their mobile phones.

They can also pay for other school expenses such as excursions and swimming lessons.

The technology, the most recent of the new cashless systems, could be rolled out to other schools if successful.

Head of Bacchus Marsh Primary School Ian Wren, whose school has been part of the pilot since August, said about 40% of parents have ordered their children’s lunches using the cashless system, and that participation continued to grow.

“Some parents said it was the best thing we have ever done,” Mr. Wren said.

“This is really the future – our kids are very tech savvy.

“Parents of young children grew up with it and they’re tech-savvy too.”

The QkR system allows parents to order their child’s lunch from their school canteen menu up to two weeks in advance, using a mobile app linked to a credit or debit card.

Canteen staff receive orders electronically, making filing easier, and can print labels to identify each child’s order when it is delivered or picked up.

MasterCard Labs vice president Martin Collings, whose organization developed the technology, said schools liked the system because it reduced administration and problems with managing cash.

“Victoria is the first place in the world where we are working on this innovation,” he said.

“Week to week, we see the number of cash transactions decrease.

“I can see a day when schools will be cash-strapped – there is no doubt about it.”

MunchMonitor chief executive Chris Gabardi, whose company manages online food ordering at a dozen Melbourne schools using electronic tags, said traditional lunch ordering in a brown paper bag with coins still had a place for some.

“A lot of parents still want to teach their kids the value of money, so they handle coins,” he said.

“Others think it will be a cashless generation and that they should stay within their budget without using coins.”

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