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Munch-A-Lunch

MARIA SPITALE

If it was up to most kids, PB&J sandwiches would be on the menu almost every lunch hour.

And for those parents who find it hard to get creative with their kids’ lunches, there is a new tool available that you won’t find in your kitchen that will help get the job done faster.

A North Vancouver entrepreneur has made it possible for schools to put together four months worth of delicious noontime meals in five minutes.

“Every parent breathes a big sigh when it comes to making lunches,” says Barbara Talbot, founder of MunchALunch, an online hot lunch ordering system for elementary and high school students. “I think we all look forward to a break from it.”

If your child’s school is a participating member of the program, you can simply visit the school’s website and find the link for MunchALunch.

Schools decide which local food suppliers they wish to use, and put the menus and pricing online for ordering. Schools usually offer plenty of choices including wraps, sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, and pasta. There are also healthy snacks and drinks that can be offered to supplement these meals such as oatmeal cookies, fruit salad, and milk.

“There are easy steps to follow,” advises Talbot. “Enter your email address, put in your own unique password, and begin ordering.”

The average cost of an entire meal is approximately $6. Currently parents pay for their orders by cheque, however online payments will be available in January 2010.

“Proceeds from lunch programs go directly back to the school PAC to help fund much-needed school programs and equipment,” explains Talbot. “Munch helps schools maximize these proceeds.” To help schools even more, there are also talks of a free Fundraising add-on that will be introduced in 2011.

Traditionally, elementary school lunch programs are paper-based systems that are labour intensive for both the school lunch coordinators and the parents themselves, says Talbot.

“Ordering online eliminates the need for paper order forms and avoids calculation errors,” she said. “Instead of lunch coordinators spending hours with paper forms, they can now generate all reports at the click of a button.”

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of the online ordering system is how it handles allergy concerns. Because the data is in a centrally located place, both the school lunch coordinators and the food vendors work with the exact same information.

“The allergy note ends up on a label that the food vendor sees,” says Talbot.

There are currently 75 schools from across the Lower Mainland on board with MunchALunch. According to Talbot, the plan is to attract more schools from not only B.C. but also the rest of Canada to this program.

For more information on MunchALunch, visit www.munchalunch.com or call 604-288-2446.

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