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Are Debit Cards Healthy for School Lunches?

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Increasingly, parents and schools are now on-board with saying goodbye to paying with cash for school lunches and opting for debit cards the students can use on cafeteria transactions. While this idea has been helpful in expediting long lunch lines and making for cleaner accounting at the end of the day, electronic payments may also be inadvertently causing students to make unhealthy food choices.

Debit cards have their benefits
While using a debit card is definitely more convenient, they have also have been shown to induce more frivolous purchases and greater overall spending in both children and adults alike. Studies have revealed that students who paid with cash, as opposed to a debit card, made healthier choices. Interestingly, those using cash increased the percentage of money spent on healthy food compared to those using debit cards. Parents who pay for several weeks’ worth of lunches in advance often have difficulty gauging how long the money in the debit account will last. By checking the debit account regularly, parents will be able to recognize their children’s spending trends and if they need to have more control over their child’s individual transactions. This would include not only the amount spent on a daily basis but also on what types of food the money is purchasing.

A cupcake here and some french fries there add up in more ways than one.Schoolboy holding plate of lunch in school cafeteria

Research results have important implications for both schools and the growing concern over child obesity. A number of schools have introduced debit systems allowing parents to regulate daily spending in hopes this will help combat the problem. Another debit payment option is MyLunchMoney.com, a leading site for updating and managing your child’s school expenses. But, if the use of cash, as opposed to debit cards, will encourage a student to make slightly healthier choices, take this as an opportunity to also start teaching your kids smart money management and budgeting skills.

If you (and your child’s school) prefer utilizing the debit payment system, it presents a great opportunity to teach kids on how to manage money online as well as budgeting for meals. When children can look at their account regularly, see the money dwindling away and on what, affords you the opportunity to talk about nutrition and which foods are really worth spending their cash on. The sooner children begin seeing that a debit card is actually money, the better prepared and hopefully wiser with money they will be when entering into adulthood.

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