Lunch in the school chair? It sounds so elementary and basic that the mass underestimation of this question seems understandable. Not for all Bulgarian parents who daily face the problems of the outdated system with paper coupons and experience all its shortcomings.
You wait in a long line every Monday, often outside and in bad weather, you count pennies and pennies, you are late for work, and in the end the child may lose the paper coupon. What elementary school parent hasn't had this story happen to them? Several times a month. But the issue of school meals also has global dimensions.
Did you know that there is a direct link between school meals and academic achievement and productivity later in life? Research conducted by the World Food Program at the United Nations (World Food Programme) proves that an investment of $1 in school meals leads to an economic return of $3 to $10.
However, there are a number of societies at risk where, due to the lack of a guaranteed school lunch, a huge number of children drop out of the education system – they are forced to enter the low-skilled labor market instead of developing their knowledge and skills at school. This leads to the loss of personal perspectives, as well as the possibility of prosperity for entire societies.
A step in the direction of solving this wide range of problems is offered by a joint project of, ORAK Engineering and 119 SU "Acad. Mikhail Arnaudov" in Sofia. In the capital school, the first electronic system for school meals in Bulgaria was introduced - a modern alternative to the outdated system based on paper coupons.
It provides parents with many options - to select meals included in the daily children's menu, to track whether the requested portion has been used, to check information about all allergens contained in the products, as well as to pay with their bank cards at any time and from any device. The students receive loaded electronic cards, which they use instead of the previous paper coupons to receive the school lunch.
Besides convenience for parents, the project brings another important change – it is a step forward in the direction of building the digital skills of Bulgarian students. "Using electronic maps, children discover the advantages of new technologies early on. In this way, they will get used to electronic devices from a young age and will be better prepared for the moment when they will grow up and become a full-fledged part of the increasingly digitized public and work environment", says Vanya Manova, Mastercard manager for Bulgaria and Macedonia.
Using the advantages of the digital project, Bulgarian parents have the opportunity, without investing additional time and money, to contribute both to the improvement of the school environment for Bulgarian children and to ensuring access to education for children from communities at risk.
For every lunch purchased through the online platform of 119 SU with a Mastercard card, the company donates funds for the purchase of drinking water purification systems, available at any time of the school day for all secondary school graduates in the capital, as well as for the World Food Program fund to provide one school lunch for a child in Rwanda.
School feeding in at-risk communities like the one in Rwanda will allow children there to stay in school and learn to become more productive when they grow up and thus contribute to the development of a better environment in families, society and the economy.