A parental monitoring option has been newly added to an electronic lunch payment system called Mealpay.com, created by Horizon Software International of Loganville, Ga. For two years, the payment system, reportedly used by 1,000 school districts in 21 states, has allowed parents to prepay for student lunches electronically. Students type in their identification number before the cafeteria cashier rings up each day’s lunch bill. The bill then is deducted from the student’s account. The system initially was designed as a convenient way to make sure children bought lunch without worrying that lunch money would get lost, spent on other things, or stolen. But these days parents increasingly are interested in what their kids eat away from home. Requests from concerned parents prompted Horizon Software to develop the new online meal-monitoring option. Under the system, parents now can see all of a student’s lunch purchases. Even those paid in nickels and dimes–instead of the prepaid lunch account–are recorded in the system, said Tina Bennett, program director.

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