Originally created 08/08/06

Parents watch pupils' meals



COLUMBIA - Parents in some South Carolina school districts will be able to monitor their children's eating habits online this school year with software that could also let them restrict what their children eat.

Kershaw County schools will implement software called LunchBox this week at each of their cafeterias.

"We want parents involved in the school eating process," said Sally Gardner, the nutrition and food service coordinator for the Kershaw County district. "Their feedback is very important to us."

More than 3,000 schools nationwide use the software, said Doug Boals, the vice president of Harlan, Ky.-based Data Futures, which produces LunchBox. Ten to 15 South Carolina school districts use it, Mr. Boals said.

Vivian Pilant, the director of food services and nutrition at the state Education Department, said other programs offer similar services.

It cost Kershaw County $145,000 to install LunchBox at its 18 schools, Ms. Gardner said.

The program works when a pupil buying lunch enters a four-digit code into a keypad at the register, causing the pupil's name, picture and lunch account balance to pop up on the cashier's screen.

The system allows the district to track inventory, order food, analyze nutrition and accept applications for subsidized meals.

Beginning in October, Kershaw County parents will be able to go online and add food restrictions, see what their children are eating and view balances. Until then, parents will receive automated voice mails with their children's balances.

"When you've got three kids at three different schools, it'll be nice to log on to a site and pay there," said Lavoy Carter, whose children attend Lugoff-Elgin High School, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School and Blaney Elementary School in Kershaw County.

Melissa Rowell, of Elgin, said she will use the system for her daughter, a Wateree Elementary School pupil who is lactose intolerant.

"This will make it easier because I can place her eating restrictions online instead of having to follow up with all of her teachers," Ms. Rowell said.