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Online lunch payment program to be tested

October 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Whether to buy or pack isn't the only decision facing parents when it comes to students' lunches.

Parents who send their children off to decide between chicken nuggets and pizza now face another question: paper or plastic?

Credit cards are coming to Washington County Public Schools cafeterias.

Starting with a pilot program in one school next month, parents will be able to pay for their children's meals in advance online, Food and Nutrition Services Gary Dodds said Tuesday night.

The Board of Education voted 6-0 to approve an arrangement with the online Web Lunch company. Board member Bernadette M. Wagner did not vote.

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According to the agreement with Web Lunch, parents monitor or add money to their children's food accounts online at www.weblunch.net. They will be charged $2.50 each time they make a deposit. It can take up to 24 hours for students' accounts to be credited after a transaction, Dodds told the board.

The service is free for the school system, Dodds said.

"At the beginning, they wanted to charge us, and we said, 'no deal,'" Dodds said.

About 40 percent of parents whose children buy school lunches already maintain prepaid accounts, Dodds said. The school system will continue to accept cash and checks from parents who want to pay for their students' meals in advance, Dodds said.

Dodds said after the meeting that he anticipates the credit-card program could entice people to spend more money in the cafeterias, and depending on participation, the school system might consider absorbing the per-transaction fees parents have to pay.

Dodds said he hopes to pilot the program in one school next month before extending it to other schools.

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