Help your students choose healthier lunch options with pre-order

When you were growing up, there was probably only one option for school lunch. Now, with many different dietary needs, and new laws encouraging whole grains as well as more servings of fruit and vegetables, cafeterias are a very different place. Schools offer a variety of choices, and have developed many different methods of encouraging students to choose healthier options. The most powerful is pre-ordering their lunches.

Student Benefits

We know that a lot of adults don’t make great food choices when they’re already hungry; why do we expect students to do better? Schools in New York found that when they let students choose their lunch at the beginning of the day, almost a third of them chose a healthier entree, as opposed to just 15 percent when they had to choose in line.

When students choose healthier lunches, here’s what we know:

  • They’re more focused and attentive in class
  • They have fewer disciplinary issues
  • They spend less time in line and more time eating their lunches
  • They learn to choose healthier foods as parents support them in making good choices
  • They get to take on independence as parents feel they’re ready for it

Parent Benefits

How well does your child relay what happened at school? When you pre-order your child’s lunch choices with them, you gain insight into what they’re eating at school. You can also:

  • Keep track of what your child is spending their lunch money on, keeping your family budget on track
  • Know that your child is getting a healthy and complete lunch, without the time consuming preparation of making lunch at home
  • Start conversations around healthy foods, and why good food choices are important

School Benefits

When kids pre-order lunch, lunch programs and managers are able to do a more exact job of planning what foods to prepare.

This means that:

  • They reduce waste and have more dollars to spend on foods students love
  • They can plan ahead, building on popular and healthy choices to offer even better options
  • They can be a partner in protecting students from the challenges of obesity and discipline issues

Pre-ordering lunch benefits everyone, from your child, to their school lunch program, to the entire district. It helps you be a part of encouraging your children to make healthy choices, and it supports the goals and values that you share at home.

If your school offers pre-ordering, find out how to get your child involved! If they don’t, contact your school lunch program to find out how this important service can be offered! Pre-ordering school lunches offers a clear benefit to kids and schools alike.

Better Food Safety through Technology

Written by Milt Miller – As food service technology advances into the future, the ability to pre-order meals on-line will become increasingly more important. Food allergies are on the rise among school aged students. Anaphylaxis is the number one cause of death involving foods in young adults. As the number of young people with food allergies continues to grow, concerned parents and school administrators are searching for ways to make serving them safer. Our northern neighbors in Canada, appear to be leading the fight for developing rules and protocols making school and university food operations safer for students with food allergies. Sabrina’s law was, passed after the death of a thirteen year old, who had an anaphylactic incident at school during lunch. It is designed to protect students with food allergies by making sure all school boards have policies in place that address anaphylaxis. Allowing students and parents to select and order a meal ahead of time could provide staff ample time to prepare a safe and allergy free meal. Pre-ordering technology can assist in making school lunch safer.

Menus are posted on line allowing parents to see the nutritional make up of school food offerings. Meal monies can be paid in advance and budgeted by how many times a week a student will purchase breakfast or lunch. Reports are generated permitting parents to see what their students are actually purchasing and they can control what they purchase on line in real time. Student food allergy information appears on the cashier’s screen to insure student safety.

I am familiar with at least one school software company, which is already providing parents and students with the ability to pre-order menu items. Currently, what I have seen in this development process, is the ability to order single menu items ahead on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Pre-ordering of this nature would provide parents with the option to plan their child’s meals and avoid the confusion experienced by young children in a cafeteria line, when forced to make choices. At the middle and high school levels pre-ordering would allow meals to be picked up at a specific area and cut down on time standing in line. However, with a bit of tweaking, the ability to pre-order an entire allergy free, reimbursable meal is also available with this system. What a relief this could turn out to be for parents and school food professionals alike.

Parents would be able to pick allergen free meal choices that could be pre-ordered for their students. What a bonus that would be, especially at the K-5 level, to insure that safe meals would be served to their children on a regular basis, without having to worry about what they are actually choosing. School food workers would be able to produce these items first in an allergen free atmosphere, know what special products are needed, and insure that each child is getting safe meals. Whew!! What a relief as a parent and as a school food professional.

There is now the ability to post menus on-line listing which of the six major allergens, peanuts, tree nuts, lactose, gluten, eggs, and shell fish, are not present in the dish. There can also be low carbohydrate and high protein meals for children with diabetes. By utilizing this technology parents could safely make choices for their young students. The students could pick up their meals in a special area, as they would have been made ahead. What more could one ask for food safety and efficiency? Older students could pre-order these allergy free, safe meals and pick them up in a designated area too. Operators would know in advance what products were needed and how much to order, what a benefit. I have spoken with college food providers recently, who are exploring the same type of process to effectively deal with food allergies. As we move forward allergies will not be going away and the need to deal with them will continue to increase. Better labeling and packaging only go so far. Anaphylaxis is the leading killer in food bourn issues involving students of all ages.

I see a need to grow in the future to provide safe allergy free pre-ordering options. Several companies are on the cusp of making this pre-order option a reality and at least one is already making this technology available. I believe this is a major breakthrough not only for safety, but also for speed of service and production efficiency. What do you think?

Milt Miller is the Principal and Chief Innovator at Milton Miller Consulting. Throughout his 32 years in the food service industry he has managed, operated and assisted food service programs to become successful. For more information on this and other topics, contact Milt at;

Help Parents Help Their Kids: Pre-Ordering Lunch Equals Healthier Choices

When you’re trying to encourage kids to make healthy choices for lunch, it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Kids seem to naturally gravitate towards the least healthy choices, even when healthier fare is offered. With regulations regarding what foods kids need to choose in order for lunches to be paid for, it can feel like school administrators are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

New studies have shown an easy method for encouraging kids to make good choices that support their health, and your healthy lunch program!

Make choices before lunch time

When do you make the best choices for food? When you’re desperately hungry and smelling all your favorite, greasy smells, or when you’re relaxed and calm, thinking forward, but not all that hungry yet?

There’s a reason that adults are often told to go shopping after they eat, to plan meals ahead of time, to pack lunch from home. We make better, more considered choices about food before we’re hungry. When we’re already hungry, we crave quick energy, simple carbs, and the kinds of foods that don’t translate into long term fuel for our bodies.

Knowing this, schools in New York gave children the chance to pre-order their lunch choices. Without question, they found that a much larger percentage of kids chose healthier options when they were making their selections well before lunch time. 29 percent of kids chose a healthier lunch option when they could pre-order, versus just 15 percent when they needed to choose in the lunch line.

Help parents help their kids

One of the many considerations parents have when they choose a school for their child is the lunch program. Parents want their kids to be healthy, and want to know that the school will help support that parental mission.

There are many ways for kids to pre-order their lunches, from paper or online choices made at home, to choices made in the classroom. Younger children can be assisted by parents and teachers, while older kids can see this as an independent step. However your school chooses to implement lunch pre-orders, they result in healthier choices for kids, which means kids who are more prepared for school, have better energy levels, and have fewer disciplinary problems within school.

It’s amazing that one simple process, encouraging kids to pre-order their lunch, can have such a dramatic effect on their day, but the evidence so far is clear. Implement this process now, and see a dramatic improvement in the eating habits of kids.


To learn more about School Lunch Pre-Order Software, click here!