In parts one and two of our balance recovery series, we took a close look into the unpaid meal debt crisis in our country. Districts everywhere are looking for solutions that will tackle the problem once and for all.
Lunch shaming should never be an option we know this, but until we have a permanent solution, PrimeroEdge has options on how you can prevent your sites from going into debt in the first place.
Start at the Source
One of the biggest causes of unpaid meal debt is due to clerical errors. In other words, humans will continue to be humans. For example, a parent may fill out an eligibility form incorrectly, or the school may process a form incorrectly during data entry. Whatever the case may be, attempting to avoid human error is the first step towards getting out of debt.
The key is software.
Having the right software is an invaluable tool that can help both parents and admins. PrimeroEdge has designed one of a kind tools to help parents and admin alike manage accounts and closely monitor balances throughout the school year.
Let’s take a closer look at our Balance Recovery features.
SchoolCafé is the number 1 rated app where parents can view menus, apply for benefits, and manage their students accounts all in ONE PLACE.
Parents can ensure their child has adequate funds by setting up:
Low Balance Alerts and
Parents can choose the balance threshold they wish to be reminded at and at which the automatic payment is run, easily removing the stress of having to constantly refill funds manually.This allows parents to always stay on top of their child’s balance, and reduces the follow-up work for admin.
For some parents, their extent of their child’s purchasing is the main source of their negative balance. These parents may prefer to limit their child’s usage on a la carte items. Instead of calling the school to set those restrictions, parents can do so directly from the SchoolCafé app. Limits can be set by date, purchase type, item amount, and spending amount per day, week, or month.
Districts using SchoolCafé’s online applications, have found that they received more accurate information from parents when they apply for benefits. Additionally, they found that more applications are being submitted because it takes less than three minutes to complete versus paper applications. The app even calculates the yearly income for parents, so they never have to pause to do the math based on how they get paid.
Not to mention, based on your district settings, the app is capable of automatically approving applications. Now, parents can be more up to date on their application status without needing to call the school office.
With more applications in your hands, and more students qualifying for free and reduced meals, the more money you get back from the state. Additionally, the more informed parents are about their child’s eligibility status and accounts, the less likely they will find themselves in debt.
Balance Recovery in POS
With the PrimeroEdge POS module, admins are able quickly generate and send reminder letters to parents about their child’s balance. However, instead of sending a generic letter to all the parents, users are able to target those with specific balance criteria and make use of our dynamic letter templates.
In the event users want to see which families currently have a negative balance, they can run the Patron Balance report. This report is capable of breaking down the families by site and display their current balance as well as the contact information that has been sent over from the users SIS.
Additionally, districts can take a larger look at which of their sites are struggling more than others with the Site Account Balance report. This allows users to see an overview of how each site is doing as far as credits vs debts are concerned, and may let them target specific sites where outstanding debt is starting to accrue.
Most importantly, the key is communication. Keep parents informed of their eligibility status to the best of your abilities, and keep them educated on how to apply for free and reduced lunches. Educate your school’s teachers so they can stress how important it is to parents too!
As I’ve mentioned throughout the series, donations are a temporary solution to the overall problem. Parents now have the opportunity to donate any unused funds from their child’s account back to their school in the latest SchoolCafé release. This would go to a general account at the school’s districts specifically for paying off negative balances.
Alex Szoeke has served as a Marketing Specialist at PrimeroEdge for over 2 years. She has previously worked in the foodservice industry as both a server and supervisor, having earned her ServSafe Managers Certification in 2015. She received her bachelor's degree in Corporate Communications from the University of Houston and later completed a 6-month Full Stack Web Development Bootcamp through the University of Texas.