For Livewell, schools are where it started. We know this sector better than any other refreshment supplier, and wanted to explore how catering in the education sector must evolve with new stock management technologies, contactless payment systems and changing dietary needs in our latest blog.

It’s been over a year since the emergence of Covid-19 caused unprecedented disruption to life as we know it. 

While the hospitality and retail industries have recently returned to a degree of pre-pandemic normality and are flourishing with the easing of restrictions, the education sector continues to navigate ongoing mass-disruption to learning, policy changes, class bubble management and rising case numbers amongst students. 

With cases set to continue to rise again ahead of the Summer holidays and perhaps into the new school year, it’s important pupils are taking the right precautions to best fight off the virus, which includes consuming a healthy diet. 

Modern vending: moving away from junk food to healthy alternatives 

Public Health England warned living with excess weight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases.

At present, more than a third of teenagers in the UK begin their adult life already overweight or obese, with even higher rates for those from poorer backgrounds. 

The risks associated between Covid-19 complications and those overweight, on top of a historic drive for change heavily fuelled by Jamie Oliver’s 15 year push for healthier school dinners, has further cemented the diets of young people as a top priority amongst governing bodies. 

The latest government action to crack down on child and teen obesity levels includes the ban of junk food ads before 9pm, outlawing daytime and early-evening TV slots for foods high in fat, salt and sugar from 2022. A further ban of online adverts of the same food is currently up for public consultation

Providing pupils with healthy alternatives to junk food while adapting to an ever-increasing cashless, contactless society is paramount to improving the health of younger generations, and the responsibility lies in part with the education sector and its decision makers.

As a result, the landscape for vending solutions in schools is changing. The demand for safe, low contact access to healthy food and drink on-the-go is on the rise. From low fat and sugar free options, to an increased demand for vegetarian/vegan alternatives, as well as the innovative use of antimicrobial films, contactless payments and automated stock management systems – vending has entered a new era. That’s where we come in. 

The catering challenges facing schools today

One of the biggest challenges in schools is that the demand for catering is compressed into quite short break times and a lunchtime — often as short as 30 or 40 minutes long. Another that is unique to schools is the regulatory standards that are in place for food and drink served to pupils, as well as funding and budget limitations.

We work closely with schools, multi-academy trusts and caterers to supply vending services and solutions that are tailored to meet these unique challenges. We offer quick, low-contact, self service catering of school of stock school compliant food and drink, which helps reduce queues and increases catering income. 

The role of technology in the future of school vending machines

Technology is playing a leading role in the growth in demand for vending machines, micro markets and refreshment stations in schools – for students and staff alike. 

Cashless payments and contactless transactions via distance selection technology enables users to select and pay for their goods seamlessly with low to no contact. With stricter hygiene practices a top priority for many post-pandemic, sanitisation stations are set to stay as part of our new normal. 

Seen as a more cost-effective alternative to all day on-site catering and a step up from traditional vending, we expect to see more and more schools making the swap to automated, contactless systems filled with healthy snacks and drinks. 

For all you catering and facilities managers in the education sector, our unique telemetry system allows real-time access to sales, stock and performance, boosting efficiency of restocking and machine maintenance. Not only does it take the guesswork out of refilling the machines and highlights top-performing products, it also allows for efficient replenishment, reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and contributing to a reduction in your carbon footprint.

What’s next? 

As technology continues to evolve, and the demand for tastier, healthier refreshments remains, vending is shedding it’s old-school image of clunky functionality and coin counting, upgrading to a seamless, sleek new look. With touchscreens, telemetry, and contactless payments, it’s time for schools, colleges and universities to upgrade their on-the-go dining offer, catering to changing consumer needs and simplifying the stock management process. 

To find out more about how we can fulfill your contactless catering needs, try out our unique Solutions Wizard which will guide you through your options to ensure the perfect fit for you, your pupils and staff.

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