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School Cafeterias Trading Lunch Money For Fingerprint Scans

Finger Scans Help Avoid Theft, Speed Up Lines

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CBS) -- More and more schools across the country are opting for a pay-by-fingerprint system in the cafeteria to cut down on theft and speed up the lunch line.

WBBM Newsradio's Veronica Carter reports, back in the day, a bully on the playground might steal your lunch money.

Kids now have gotten a little more creative, because everything's gone high-tech. They have ID cards, or they have a personal identification number they use to buy food at the cafeteria.

Even PINs for each student carry risks. All a thief has to do is stand behind a student who gives the lunch lady his or her PIN, memorize the number, and use it themselves charge all they want on that account.

At Merrillville Community Schools, officials have installed finger scanning system so only the child on the account can buy food.

"We had a lot of problems with students stealing each other's numbers, and it's really hard to prove who did that," said food services director Colleen Hostetler.

A child's entire fingerprint is not scanned, only parts of it, so it can't be duplicated, according to Hostetler.

It's not just theft that a finger scanner can help avoid.

When kids line up for lunch, every time one of them forgets his or her ID card or PIN, the line comes to a screeching halt.

"We have a lot of kids we have to get through very quickly. They get like 35 minutes for lunch. If you have to wait 25 minutes for your lunch, you don't have time to eat," she said.

Hostetler said it's especially hard for cashiers to get kids through the line at the start of each school year, because the kids don't have IDs yet, and cashiers have to ask them their names.

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