NORTH OLMSTED

The main offices at North Olmsted’s middle school and high school have already implemented thermal imaging software, and the building’s cafeterias will be soon to follow.

By the end of this school year, about half of a recently awarded $5,000 grant will be put toward biometric scanners, which will be placed at all cafeteria cash registers. Instead of memorizing a six-digit PIN – not always the easiest task for kids on the go – students will use a fingerprint to generate a binary code and complete their meal transaction.

North Olmsted City Schools Director Patty Kinch said the goal of the technology upgrade is efficiency.

“The middle and high school have already started using it, so we’ll jump into it to speed up service in our cafeteria lines,” she said.

The “Help Feed School Kids Now!” grant, awarded by Sodexo, was created by the School Nutrition Foundation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of supporting school nutrition programs and providing additional funding for those programs nationwide. Kinch applied for the competitive grant in the fall and was notified of the maximum $5,000 award on March 10.

“It really is a wonderful grant because it’s wide open,” Kinch said. “It’s for anything that will aid in feeding kids, which we really appreciate.”

Kinch plans to use the rest of the money on additional insulated meal carriers and transport carts as she and her staff continue to produce grab-and-go meals for students still learning virtually, as well as for elementary school students who have meals delivered to their classrooms.

Per federal COVID-19 guidelines, schools will be able to serve free breakfasts and lunches to all students through Sept. 30.

Kinch and her rotating staff of about 20 workers have continued to produce around 1,800 grab-and-go meals per week for distribution, even after the district moved from a hybrid to all-in class schedule. The staff prepares five days’ worth of breakfasts and lunches at a time for distribution every Friday. When the district was still operating entirely virtually earlier this school year, the number of meals served per week averaged closer to 2,800.

“All of these COVID-19 waivers have been very impactful, allowing kids access to free meals,” Kinch said. “It’s really been a group effort getting those meals prepped for the week, and we’ve gotten pretty darn good at it. I have just a great group of ladies who know we’re doing the right thing in everything we do. It’s all about getting more meals to kids.”

This school year, the food service department has served over 75,000 breakfasts and 100,000 lunches.

Contact this reporter at cvoloschuk@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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