Students in one Stark County district pay for lunch with touch of finger

CANTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio - A simple swipe of their finger can help speed students at Canton Local Schools through a lunch line.

The district is programming the information from each student into a biometric reader that can help them more efficiently access their lunch account and more.

"If you can imagine we are feeding about 86 percent of our students in each building and we are about 700 students, give or take. So in two hours, that's a lot of students to get through the line so with this we are hoping it will speed up the line," said Ashley Ritz, the district's food service director.

The technology could be something with which many of the students, even tech savvy elementary students are already familiar.

"We don't collect finger prints in this process. The student comes through and they get registered. They have to scan their finger four times. The system will put seven dots in place and each dot is generated by a number so it's just a long pattern of numbers in our system that is stored. There is no fingerprint in the process at all," Ritz said.

The new system replaces a pin pad on which students would have to enter a six-digit number to access their account information.

"It just wasn't a very efficient process. Unfortunately, we had students behind them watching them every time type in that six digit code. So there's a little security risk as we use that lunch code for other IDs within the school as far as their computers and tech as well. So it was kind of a breach of security in a sense.  The biometric allows us to keep that security with the individual., said the district's technology director Nick Stepanovich.

The technology will also quickly display other information to the cashier, including any food allergies a student may have.

Though the technology is different, it is already being used in several area school districts. Canton Local Schools consulted with those systems before making the switch.

Ritz said another advantage is that once a student is registered in the program, that unique scan can stay with them from elementary school through graduation.

"It does take a process because we are registering about 2,100 students in our district and we now have added about 60 to 70 preschoolers on top of that. So it has been a process, but I'm still confident that this will be the most efficient when we are all said and done."