Finger Scanners Revolutionize the Lunch Room

Technology is not only helping students in classrooms and at home, it's also helping them move faster through lunch lines. At the press of a finger students can verify their identification and pay for their food, rather than hold up a line by digging through their pockets for cash or a meal card. So far, the system has been met with both praise and concern. Schools offering Computer Support Technician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Food at Their Fingertips

Lunch money gets stolen. Meal cards get lost. Identification numbers get forgotten. But as one school employee put it, 'A student cannot forget their finger.' It's as good an argument as any for the growing use of finger scanners in school lunch rooms across the country.

Proponents also say that the scanner systems are helping to keep lines moving along, most notably during breakfast. For the most part, students go to lunch in the same groups at the same times, but those showing up for breakfast are more random.

Getting the line moving faster helps to get more kids fed in the morning, and gives students more time at lunch. One school district reported that using finger scanners increased the time students had to eat by as much as ten minutes.

In some cases, the fingerprint scanning technology is being utilized beyond the food lines. Some school systems also use finger scanners for taking out library books or even getting on the bus.

A Matter of Privacy an Issue for Some

Despite praise from lunch room workers and school administrators, some parents fear that finger scanning could lead to privacy issues. It's a concern that's been on the minds of some parents ever since the technology was introduced years ago.

Arizona parent Jim Karlsberger told TIME Magazine in 2007, when finger scanning was begun in his son's school, 'I find it hard to believe that someone, someday, won't find a way to compromise the information on my child's fingerprint.' Some parents worry about identity theft; others believe the fingerprints can be used by police.

Schools insist that the technology is safe. The fingerprint itself, they say, is not recorded or stored; instead, the initial scan creates a template of several points on each fingerprint and this information is converted into an encrypted code. It is the code and not the actual print that is stored. The initial scan is destroyed.

'I see no way for that process to be used by anybody else,' Mitch Johns, president of Food Service Solutions (FSS), told ABC News earlier this year. FSS manufactures a finger scanning system used in some schools.

But it's not as 1984 as some might think. Parents can choose to have their children continue using their cards or IDs and not participate in finger scanning at all.

While some students across the country can say goodbye to meal cards as the use of finger scanners grows, those in Indiana could bid farewell to conventional textbooks as the state turns to digital content instead.

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