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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Lunch line lesson: What’s the problem with using verbal IDs?

Jeremy Si
Junior Kirby Fung, who regularly volunteers as a lunch line cashier, watches as students scan their ID cards to get food on Nov. 14.

The bell rings; you rush to the cafeteria lunch line, set your bag down on the ground and join the line. While trying to recall your ID number, you hear assistant principal Matt Torrens and campus supervisor Archie Ljepava shout at students for not having their IDs. Uh oh.

Starting last year, as part of a statewide policy affecting public schools, the school began providing free basic lunches to students. A few weeks later, signs were posted telling students that verbal IDs (simply telling your ID number to the cashier) were no longer accepted; however, those posters were never adhered to as multiple students continued to use verbal IDs in the days that followed.

This year, however, Torrens and Ljepava, both of whom oversee the lunch lines, have recently begun to strictly enforce these rules by sending students who do not have their IDs — either in the form of a physical card or a digital photo — to the back of the line.

But what is the cause of this change?

The first reason, according to Torrens, is that when cashiers concentrate on recording verbal IDs, it prevents them from properly monitoring what items students are taking from the line. The school’s basic lunch plan consists of a main course, milk and a piece of fruit. 

It is essential for the cafeteria staff to see what items students take so that they can charge them for additional items, such as water bottles. Those additional items are not paid for by the federal and state governments, and taking them without showing them to the cafeteria staff and paying for them is a form of theft.

“If students don’t have their IDs, the cashier has to take their eyes off of the transaction to see what the food is and punch numbers in,” Torrens said. “Kids are putting water bottles in their pockets, and the cashier sometimes can’t identify whether or not they’re trying to walk out with something without showing them.”

The second reason is that people may use other people’s IDs in order to get their food, possibly falsely charging another person for an item that they did not buy. With a physical or digital student ID on hand, it is easier to verify the student’s identity.

Additionally, physical and digital IDs make the line much faster and more efficient. Scanning the barcode on the student ID is more efficient and less prone to error than verbally saying the numbers to a cashier, cafeteria staff member Zaida Ventocilla said.

Ventocilla, a cashier for the lunch line, said manually entering the student ID number takes a lot of time for multiple reasons.

“Sometimes, the computer doesn’t respond, and other times, we might put in the wrong number and charge the wrong person,” Ventocilla said. “When the students scan their IDs, there is rarely a mistake.”

Although this change may seem like an inconvenience to many, it ensures that there are no errors in charging students’ accounts. At the end of the day, the only cost of not having a physical or digital ID is having to wait longer to get lunch.

“What I’m telling people at lunchtime is that if you don’t have your card, just wait until the end of the line,” Torrens said. “You can still get your food, but I need you to wait until the end.”

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