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to be annoyed at school canteen charging for wrong meals?

(18 Posts)
abstractLucas Thu 28-Apr-16 20:22:23

That's it really - I have two kids at the same secondary school who have school dinners - partly because moving housee etc so like to know they have had a proper proper hot meal (and I can do sandwiches/crackers/soup etc for tea without feeling guilty), partly because a change in our circumstances means they're on free school meals atm. They swipe their ID card to pay for their meals, so no cash, and their choices get paid for each afternoon by council. School has recently introduced an online thing where you can see what kind of thing they had - not massive detail, but says 'main meat meal' or 'standard wrap' etc. Both kids have pushed it at times, eating two chocolate muffins and a milkshake for lunch for example, before they realised we could see what they had. Have had a serious 'this is why we want you to have a proper meal' conversation and things got back on track. Last few weeks however I know it's being recorded wrongly - for example my veggie daughter has apparently been eating meat since half term. Not only does this mean I can't be sure they're eating proper meals (they said they had pizza, which is not main meal, so presumably being truthful, but records had them eating main meals), but also they're being charged for main meals but not having them. I completely understand that since they're on free school dinners at the moment this isn't MY money, but presumably happening to kids other than mine whose families ARE paying.
Do I phone school and ask them to look into it? If it happened once or twice then I understand that's a mistake, and I can imagine that the canteen is very busy at lunchtime and it's a stressful job, but it's wrong at least twice a week, and I don't think that is really good enough.
What do you think? AIBU or is it okay to take this up with the school?

curren Thu 28-Apr-16 20:28:05

There is obviously a problem. Unless it's reported they are unlikely to be aware. So tell them if you think they need telling.

But I can't see why it would annoyed by this. Technology often doesn't work as its meant to. Especially when it's new. It's just one of those things.

StealthPolarBear Thu 28-Apr-16 20:30:23

Are you sure your dd's not eating meat?

Tiredbutfuckingfine Thu 28-Apr-16 20:31:12

Have you raised this with the kids? Because if I was "free school dinners" and my mate wasn't, I'd happily get them a giant plate of bangers and mash, and they could buy me a slice of pizza plus some of the cash I saved them, which I'd waste on sweets on the way home smile

EatShitDerek Thu 28-Apr-16 20:32:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cricketballs Thu 28-Apr-16 20:33:33

There might not be a category on the till that matches the actual food your DD has had but 'main meal meat' is the same price so the easiest way to charge

abstractLucas Thu 28-Apr-16 20:50:51

Everyone has cards not cash - money can only be put on straight from bank account online or by phone.
Do definitely not eating meat - veggie has been her choice for several years, no one else in family veggie, and she is absolutely fastidious about checking labels etc and will give marshmallows etc to her brothers if given them by others.
Categories are broad but I know by looking back there are a variety of options - main meat meal, main veg meal, pizza bar, hot pot meal, baked potato etc
Have spoken to kids and they've sworn blind certain days are wrong, eg saying he'd had pizza and explaining that he didn't want main meal cos he'd had it before it it was horrible, but info says he had main.

HighwayDragon1 Thu 28-Apr-16 20:58:01

It wouldn't surprise me if they're putting it down as a main meal because they are on fsm and the school claim the maximum amount

abstractLucas Thu 28-Apr-16 21:56:56

I wondered that - bearing in mind it's technically a deprived area, and I think it's about 45% of students on FSM they'd basically be raking it in...

Noodledoodledoo Thu 28-Apr-16 22:49:05

FSM funding is a set amount per day - most of our students run out of money if they by too many 'snacks' at break time. The amount (sorry not sure what it is) is loaded to the card each day so they can't spend it all on Monday!

GeezAJammyPeece Thu 28-Apr-16 23:14:05

I work in a high school canteen.
Most run a cashless system now, and have done for a number of years.

Obviously the exact 'value' of a FSM varies by region but I assume the general idea is basically the same.

Our school is in the process of implementing ParentPay, the online service you mention, but it is my understanding that kids will still be able to credit their accounts in school via the revaluer machines etc.

As I mentioned, there will be differences, but I can explain exactly how it works here; if you think it would help?

LuisSuarezTeeth Thu 28-Apr-16 23:16:52

Just ask them, no need to be annoyed.

Probably a computer thing.

SilverBirchWithout Thu 28-Apr-16 23:31:05

Surely the canteen staff would not know who was on school meals in order to get more money fraudulently for their employer?

Three options here:

1. DC are buying more expensive meals for their mates, and getting something back in return.

2. The canteen tiill card swiping person does not know what they are doing or the technology is failing.

3. Someone in the canteen is pilfering on a serious scale, and are hiding their theft of higher value foods by charging on to the kids they have heard are on free school meals.

GeezAJammyPeece Thu 28-Apr-16 23:52:30

And as for them basically be raking it in....... not really!!

Ok, here the secondary menu runs on a 4 week rotation. Each day there are 3 choices of main meal (always a veggie option included), sandwiches, filled baguettes/rolls/wraps/baked potatoes, hot filled rolls, a choice of snack items such panini, sub's, pasta pots, salad boxes.

There are various Meal Deals which save them money on buying individually.
The FSM daily amount is equal to the most used one, at £2.05. For that amount they can get :

Choice of main meal, drink from a selection, and either soup or a dessert.

Or they can swap the main course for a snack option or sandwich etc.

For example; today's menu was :

Potato & leek OR lentil soup;
Sausages in gravy & mash;
Spag bol;
Spicy bean burger with salad & bun, roast baby potatoes;
Choice of peas, sweet corn, side salad

Dessert of the day was Choc berry brownie & custard, or they could choose an iced muffin, oat cookie, jammy dodger, caramel shortbread, yoghurt, fruit, crackers & cheese

Drinks are milk, flavoured milk, fruit juice, water, bottles of fruit juice/water combo.

Meal deals are subsidised by the LA, so they pay 35p for every £2.05 deal (bought individually it would be £2.65) That £2.05 covers the meal ingredients, the wages, the rental of the kitchen space, equipment, cleaning products.....

I think they get a pretty good deal!!!

The Tills have touch screens, every item should go through individually, but in practice sometimes there may be a button that hasn't been programmed correctly or a menu item has to be changed. Sometimes kids will choose to deviate from the deals and their choices are more than their allowance so we may put it through as something else if they are 10p short.

Some places may ring it up differently so they get the full subsidy for all FSM (don't think that would work for us due to how our stock system works!)

If the kitchen knows there are 45% of the school roll entitled to a free meal, assuming some will bring a packed lunch or go out to local shops, chances are they only cater for 30% of those.

The unused FSM allowance is credited each day but if it is unused it disappears. That £2.05 ONLY exists in real terms once your child spends it. The LA is only billed for those free school meals which were actually eaten and can in theory request a breakdown of numbers etc.


As for your particular query; I'd assume there is some operator error due to hitting the wrong button, some error due to software issues (odd buttons not working) , and possibly some trading with friends. There may also be some subsidy juggling.
Ultimately you just need to trust your kids on what they say they've eaten.

I realize this is stupidly long but hopefully it may help!?!?

abstractLucas Fri 29-Apr-16 07:25:05

It is helpful - thank you. Get your point absolutely about value for money, but price for pizza just is less than price for full main meal, and if school is getting the difference for two teens two or three times a week, then you multiply that by the number of YP in the school, there's a chunk of money every week going in to the school that they aren't supposed to be getting.
Silver birch - no, there's no difference between the cards for the kids getting FSM - that's part of the point! Right now mine are on FSM, but in a few months we'll be paying again, and if I'm paying £2.40 for a main meal, I want them to get a full main meal, not an 85p piece of pizza!
Think I'll ring school today on the assumption that there's a software issue that needs to be worked out, and see if accuracy improves over next couple of weeks.
Thanks folks.

sashh Fri 29-Apr-16 07:25:51

Another vote for buying someone else's lunch in exchange for a snack or another child's packed lunch.

00100001 Fri 29-Apr-16 07:55:40

Well, considering you had a pop at the kids about making sure they had a proper meal at lunch time, and then they tell you all they had was a lice of pizza, I'd be annoyed at my kids tbh.

A slice of pizza for lunch is not a substantial meal.

GeezAJammyPeece Fri 29-Apr-16 12:17:28

Forgot to read over my screeds of War & Peace when I was typing on my phone last night, meant to say; YES definitely query it, they may be able to shed some light on what the issue is and if not, it at least makes them aware that there IS an issue.

I know if I notice a dodgy button I mention it but as an outside company updates the system we can't rectify it there & then. Could be something like that.

Totally understand what you are saying RE: the pizza price. We sell 3 different sizes of pizza slice, one of which IS a main meal & comes with accompaniments; could be something as simple as a new member of staff not realizing there's a difference.

Intrigued to know what their answer is.

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