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SSC Newspaper : July 2012
By Bernadette Chua The internet is o en accused of being the schoolyard bully's new best friend, but innovative Australian online canteen systems such as MunchMonitor and FlexiSchools are tackling lunch money-stealing bullies in Strath eld playgrounds with a clever cashless lunch-ordering system. ese systems allow parents to pre-order their children's lunches online, ban certain foods and even alert canteen sta to allergies. Leanne Martin, the canteen manager at Strath eld South Public School, has been in the canteen business for 17 years and thinks MunchMonitor is the "best thing ever". She hails the online cashless system as one that both deters bullies and promotes healthy eating while being more e cient than the traditional brown paper bag method. "Kids are eating healthier and it's great for kids with allergies because I can see what types of foods they can't buy," she says. She adds that it makes business sense, saving both time and money. MLC introduced the FlexiSchools online ordering system earlier this year. "Junior school parents can place and pay for their daughters' purchases online," explains MLC Principal, Denice Scala. "Senior students can swipe their own personal ID card to purchase items from the canteen. " e cashless system tends to assist parents because there is no searching for change in the morning, which for many households, is a busy time. It has been favourably received by students, parents and sta ." Chris Gabardi, one of the directors of MunchMonitor, says it was time to revolutionise the archaic paper bag system. e idea for MunchMonitor came about when a friend of his business partner complained that she didn't know what her 10-year-old daughter was doing with her lunch money every day. A few years on, Gabardi and colleagues Sco McClure and Alex Dubinski found themselves volunteering in both independent and public school canteens across Sydney. Gabardi tells the Scene: "We volunteered in a range of canteens and kept on nding that schools and parents wanted to give responsibility back to parents. "We saw some very good manual systems but we also knew we could do it be er." Gabardi adds that MunchMonitor saves two hours a day, which was previously used for manual tallying and coin counting. MunchMonitors also found that, as parents already spend a great deal of time on the internet, it made sense to have an online lunch-ordering system. Parents can order lunches up to a month in advance and run transaction reports to see what items their children buy. But its not just a system for the li le ones. Gabardi says that high school students can also bene t from the cashless system -- they can use special ID cards to buy food so they don't have to carry money around. Gabardi acknowledges that it can be di cult to implement a new computer system, especially with something as established as ordering food from a school canteen, but believes schools are being increasingly drawn to the more e cient system. "It took a li le while to get rolling, but we're six years into the business now and with more and more schools using the system and noticing the time they save, more people are realising it's a good option," he says. "Canteen operators might be frightened, but once they overcome their fear, they won't see themselves going back. "It's increasingly become the norm." By Joanne Tran Inner-west students will be discussing cultural and racial intolerance in a project that is being rolled out across local schools as part of the inner west Di erent People Di erent Voices Project (DPDVP). e project was developed by local youth leaders to tackle racial and cultural intolerance and extremism. Part of the project is a giant interactive board game, complete with huge in atable dice, which last month was presented to Homebush Boys, Ash eld Boys, Canterbury Boys, Bur wood Girls and Auburn Girls. e game, called My Australia Our Australia, generates the experience of living in both a se ing of cultural cohesion and one of no cultural tolerance and the impacts of this. It asks players questions that spark discussion and create awareness of the risk factors that may lead to racism and violent extremism. As part of the project, 20,000 Youth Service Maps, displaying youth services in the area, will also be distributed to schools in the inner west. DPDVP Coordinator Georgina Vega believes cultural bullying is a prevalent but o en unspoken issue in our schools. She says that, as a youth worker visiting schools, that there are incidents involving cultural bullying but they're not being reported as such. Vega has had conversations with students about how their culture a ects the way students interact with them and this is what prompted the program. e Federal A orney-General's Department funded the project as part of their Building Community Resilience Grants Program. Dr Asha Rajah-Clarke from the department said the project is a tool to allow students to have open dialogue about cultural tensions. "It lets students share ideas and talk about shared experiences. It gives people the opportunity to listen to each other and stops them from feeling isolated," she said. Deputy Principal of Canterbury Boys, Marianne Brewster, says the game's questions provoke deep conversations about cultural issues. She also says the board game wasn't only enlightening, but engaging. "When the bell rang, the students didn't want to stop," she says. Local heads of religions also commended the DPDVP program for its contribution to our ever-growing multicultural society. "I think it's important that western Sydney engages in programs like this," says Rabbi Mendel Kastel, Chaplain to the NSW Police Force. " is area is a beautiful melting pot and other places may have no idea about the di culties it faces. We need more programs like this, as di erent approaches will ring true to di erent people." JULY 2012 EDUCATION Parents can now ensure their kids are eating well at lunchtime. Leanne Martin: "Best thing ever." Tackling racism in our schools Cash-free canteens the new order Youth leaders involved in the board game's development. 12 Strathfield Scene