Independence School District, located east of Kansas City, Missouri, is comprised of 27 schools with an enrollment of more than 14,000 students. Director of Nutrition Services Michele Crumbaugh oversees food service operations at all schools and manages a warehouse distribution center to serve approximately 1.2 million lunches per year. Michele and her staff are dedicated to providing nutritious food and quality services to the students and faculty of the Independence School District.
Since 1998, Independence has used Horizon’s Front of the House and Back Office solutions to significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its food service operation. Michele continually strives to improve her operation and readily adopts new technology to benefit students and the district.
To be in accordance with the district’s health-and-wellness philosophy, and to be proactive regarding the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, Michele wanted to remove third-party vending machines from the schools and take control of the district’s vending operation. “Student vending services were provided by an outside service that was not invested in the district health-and-wellness philosophy,” Michele commented.
Michele turned to Horizon’s Healthy Vending solution so she could have complete control over the products offered through vending and reap the benefits of using vending machines that function as cashierless point of service (POS) lines. The district implemented 33 Healthy Vending machines at 15 school sites to provide nutritious à la carte items to its student population.
Horizon’s Healthy Vending solution enables districts to serve nutritious reimbursable meals and à la carte items anywhere on campus without adding labor costs. The vending machines are fully integrated with the POS system, allowing eligibilities and meal accounts to be used for purchases and providing all of the functionality and reporting features found with traditional POS lines.
“The fact that Horizon’s vending solution interfaces with the POS system is an advantage. To have a standalone system that did not interface with our existing software wouldn’t be efficient,” noted Michele.
Prior to making the decision to take control of the vending operation, Michele first tested the feasibility of bringing the vending operation in-house. ”We leased the existing vending machines and filled them with our product selections. This allowed us to look at average sales, identify the number of machines needed, and come up with a projected return on investment,” Michele stated.
When planning to implement an in-house vending program, it is important to remember that third-party vending is typically a source of revenue for the schools. To encourage complete support for an in-house vending program and to help the schools continue to receive benefits, Michele pays a stipend back to the high school and middle schools each month.
Independence not only met its basic goal of providing healthier choices in the student vending machines, the district also saw significant business benefits as well.
With the Healthy Vending solution in place, Michele found that à la carte sales increased an average of $22,000 per month, which is about 27%. “The convenience of vending is enhanced by the cashless purchase option the system provides,” Michele stated. “This has helped increase reimbursements and à la carte purchases. And labor wasn’t increased.”
With Horizon’s Healthy Vending system, districts can monitor sales by machine throughout the operation, reducing the time it takes to see how products are selling as everything is reported to the POS system in near real time.
Michele closely tracks inventory movement and continually adjusts product offerings to ensure that changing nutrition standards are met and to provide products that are appealing to students. “We are able to monitor inventory without physically being in front of the machine,” Michele said.
Horizon’s Healthy Vending solution has had a positive impact on the success of Michele’s department. “With our previous vending program, we had a lack of control over the products offered and we were unable to track purchases,” Michele commented. “Now, we are able to assure products are meeting the district’s wellness guidelines, and we can track student spending and identify sales trends.”
And, Horizon’s Healthy Vending solution isn’t the only new technology Michele is putting to work for her department. She is also implementing Horizon’s SourceBoard digital signage solution to improve the way health education and nutrition information is delivered to students, faculty, and visitors.