Fingerprint Scans Replace Lunch Money

ByABC News
January 18, 2001, 12:38 PM

Jan. 18 -- Students in Pennsylvania are giving the lunch lady the finger.

A new system which uses fingerprint scanners to let kids pay for school lunches is getting raves from students and school administrators, but is making privacy advocates nervous.

The scanners make stealable lunch money, lose-able swipe cards and the stigma of being known as the free-lunch kid things of the past, says Walter Curfman, superintendent of the Tussey Mountain School District in western Pennsylvania.

You always have your finger with you, unless you cut it off, he said.

But Andrew Shen of the Electronic Privacy Information Center worries about how well the information will be protected from being spread around throughout the government.

Once you have a collection of fingerprints starting from such an early age, I can imagine this being used for other purposes in the future such as law enforcement, he said.

Popular System

The system from Altoona, Penn.-based Food Service Solutions is currently being piloted in middle and high schools at Tussey Mountain and neighboring Penn Cambria School District in rural western Pennsylvania, and Lower Merion School District in suburban Philadelphia. So far, its unique to the Keystone state, FSS president Mitch Johns said.

It works on a debit account system parents put money in, and students order food. When the account runs low, a letter goes out to the parents. Parents can also restrict students shopping a la carte buying extra food not on the days set menu. Students can also choose to buy items with cash.

So far, kids have taken to the new system, said Tussey Mountain cafeteria director Deb Stepisianos. Though the kids goof around a bit putting the wrong finger down and such so far only three sets of parents have opted out of the program, she said.

And as Tusseys system was a beta test, theyve had some trouble with the software, choking up lunch lines.