VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - Very soon, Vigo County school buses will be carrying students to a new school year.
According to the Vigo County School Corporation Calendar, kids head back to the classroom on August 8th. Based off of previous numbers, a lot of those kids will enter the school doors hungry.
"The trays inside Terre Haute, they're clean," said Food Services Coordinator Tom Lentes, "The kids are eating whatever we serve."
This time of year is often busy for Lentes and his department. Normally, Lentes said the office sifts through thousands of applications for hungry children.
"We're based over 56 percent free and reduced," he said, "So we've got a significant amount of applications."
Technology is making the process a little easier for both parents and the school corporation.
Last week, a green postcard was sent out to Vigo County parents that alerted them of a couple of changes to the Food Services software.
One of those changes allows parents to fill out the application for free/reduced meals online.
Lentes said the process is easy, and a link to complete the application can be found on the Food Services section of the VCSC website.
"The process is much quicker for us," Lentes said, "It comes through our office in a much more timely manner, and then they get processed much quicker for us too."
Lentes said paper applications were harder and took a lot of time to process before, but parents can still choose to file this way if they prefer. However, with the new updates to their software, Lentes said there's less likely to be problems.
"It's going to open up less chance for error," Lentes said, "Because now with the software that we have online, it's all going to be communicated through the computers versus us manually doing some of those things. So less manual, less human error, not that we made a ton of mistakes, but there's always that chance."
Another tool that Food Services is rolling out is the MySchoolBucks app. MySchoolBucks is available online or through your mobile device. The purpose is to give parents easier access to their child's lunch account.
The app includes a variety of features. Lentes said parents can view what their child is eating, how much money is left in their account and other information. Parents can also set a minimum amount for alerts.
"They can look at setting up minimums that'll send you an email, or I believe even a text message, to let you know when your child gets down to $2 or might get down to $5," Lentes said, "You can look and see, on our own account, be able to see nutritional values, you can look on menus, all of those things are accessible online now."
You can also put money in your child's lunch account through the app directly, however, Lentes said that will cost you a convenience fee of about $2. If you choose not to make payments through MySchoolBucks, you can still create an account and get access to your child's lunch information for free.
"It gives them more a lot more accessibility to be able to see what's happening with their student, whether they're eating or not," said Lentes, "and even if you give cash, and you want to make sure it gets in to their account, you could check the account at night and be able to see if that $20 check made it to their account."
We wanted to know how parents feel about the new app and if they plan on using it. At the time when this story aired, around 10 p.m. Eastern, a majority of parents said they "absolutely" planned on trying out the new feature.
For members of the school corporation, the feeling is mutual. In the meantime, Lentes asks parents to be patient as they work through the new system.
"It's taken us a while, but we've taken that leap," Lentes said, "and I believe it's going to be, I know it's going to be, a great program for us."
If you have any questions about the free/reduced application or the MySchoolBucks app, you can contact VCSC Food Services at (812) 462-4245.
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