School cafeterias in Miami are getting a high-tech makeover.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools have rolled out wireless and cashless vending machines that serve up healthy meal options made from local ingredients to its 45 high schools and 10 middle schools.
Students access the Star Food Healthy Express machines by typing in their student ID and birth date to receive a healthy meal of their choice that is ready in about 20 seconds.
Although each student account is attached to a meal account, more than 50 percent of students in the district are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s reimbursable meal program. The technology allows students not to be singled out in the cafeteria line.
In addition, the school has partnered with a variety of local celebrity chefs, including the Food Network’s Michelle Bernstein, to offer quick healthy options. From Caribbean wraps to yogurt parfait – the most popular item for sale – more than 58,000 lunches have been sold through the machines during the trial period that ran from April until June.
School systems around the country have been using Star Food Healthy Express on a smaller scale for the last few school years, but Miami-Dade is the first to implement the machines district-wide. They are also the first to tie in local chefs with the program.
“Students are very tech-savvy and love to text, punch in numbers and get things quickly,” said Penny Parham, administrative director of the food and nutrition department at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “Teens also want healthy options and to stay fit, so it’s been an extremely successful program for us so far. We hope to roll out more vending machines to our middle schools soon.”
Each vending machine holds 90 meals at a time and is usually restocked once during a lunch period.