The Big Idea 2013: Food App

New food app delivers school lunch information for parents.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

Wesley Delbridge, R.D.
Food and Nutrition Supervisor
Chandler Unified School District
Chandler, Ariz.


We built an app for our program. We did a survey of our parents and 87% wanted information either on the computer or on the phone. We were printing menus and spending a lot of money on these colorful menus that only 13% of our parents cared about.

Kids make their food decision based on what they see. So if they are looking at a menu and they see words they might have an idea of what that is. Maybe if they see a picture it will increase participation.

The goal with the app is that you can look at any one of our menus on any day and then break it down by item. If a parent says, “I’m not sure that pizza is healthy,” he can click on the pizza and see how many calories are in it, see all the nutritional values and also find out our allergen information. He can also see a picture of it. If a student comes home and says, “I had a banana nut muffin,” a parent might say that doesn’t sound very healthy. They can go to the app and see that we make it from scratch and we make it with sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Parents can also access on our app to find out what their kid has eaten and how much lunch money they have left. If they need to put lunch money on their account they can do that on their phone. When I analyzed our website, I found that a lot of parents were using it between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. What that means is it’s a last-minute check on what are you having for lunch today. The app helps with that.

We also offer a nutrition education section with tips on how to make recipes at home. We post cooking demonstration videos and we have a news section. We also have a directory, so if they ever need to get in touch with one of our kitchens it’s a tap-to-call or email function.

The app is updated in real time. So let’s say a shipment doesn’t come in and the chicken dippers that we were going to offer on Wednesday don’t come in. I can go into the app and change chicken dippers to whatever we are substituting it with. When the parents go on to the app in the morning to see what we are serving they aren’t getting false information. A lot of diabetics use our site for carb information so that’s an important resource for them as well. They can also sign up for push notifications for department news.

The app also links up to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Parents want to feel involved in the decision-making process and they want to have the information very easily accessible.

The app is for iPad and iPhone. We’re building an Android version.  

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