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Life Isn't What You Expect - Part 2

"We Are On This Journey To See Where Life Takes Us"

 

When I first started helping out with the lunch program at the school, it consisted of sending home paper slips to the parents each month, for them to fill out with their child’s name and homeroom and then checking off which food items they would like on which days. It then relied on the parent to add up the cost of all the items that they had chosen and then either send in a cheque or cash to cover those items.

Once those were all handed in at the school, we did have a deadline as to when they had to be in by, a group of lunch volunteers, usually nine of us, would meet at the local library and would divide up the paper slips and payments and go through and see if they all matched up. As you can imagine a lot didn’t. Some were over paid and others were under paid. We usually went with "if it was a $1 either way leave it", but if it was more we would contact the parents to let them know. We’d also have to add up all the orders so that the vendors would know how much of everything to make and then create lists for handing out the lunches to the children. This was hours and hours of work each month. Don’t get me wrong, even though it was a lot of work it was a chance to get to catch up with other mums and hang out together.

I loved going into the school at lunchtimes to serve lunches to the children. As a food day chairperson, we would make sure the vendor had the reports they needed to prepare the food and to check in with them the day before to remind them that they were providing lunches the following day. On the day we’d get to the school before lunches began so that we could get set up and receive the lunches from the vendors. We’d set out the food, the cutlery and napkins and have a list of children and what they were getting ready for the first lunch. Once the children came in, they would all sit down and then be called up by homeroom to collect their lunches.

For the most part all went smoothly. Occasionally children who were not on the list would say that the parents had ordered for them, but when asked if they had lunch they would say yes that they had bought one from home. I think they just wanted to eat what their friends were having.

Over the next few months, I worked closely with the then parent in charge of the School Lunch Program and saw what she and the other volunteers did. I helped out where I could and was there to serve lunches regularly.

The following school year, in 2002, I found myself as Co-President of the PTO and also as chair of the food days program at the elementary school. Nothing like jumping in with both feet!

After a few months of chairing the Food Days Program, I thought that there must be an easier way to do ordering and payments, and casually suggested to my husband that maybe he could just pop it on a website. He was good at programming and after a bit of thinking he said yes and so the first version of myFoodDays was born in the summer of 2003. This was the start of my business.

I was responsible for setting up the menus for the schools on the website and answering parent questions. Michael was there to fix anything that broke and answer the more technical questions - he was still working a full time job, so myFoodDays was evenings and weekends for him. At this time it didn’t bring in any money so it was definitely a labour of love.

Warren Middle School was our first school, closely followed by the four elementary schools in Warren. We trained the food days chair at each of the schools on how to use the system too.

The first version of myFoodDays was for placing orders only, at that time we didn’t take online payments, so parents still had to send in cheques or cash, but this time we did tell them how much their lunch cost! Even so some still managed to send in the wrong amounts!! Oh well.

The system generated reports for us so that we could give those to the vendors so they would know how many of each item was needed, it also told us how much to pay the vendors. We also had a report that gave us the lists with the children’s names on for the handing out of the lunches on each day.

As time went by, and mostly through word of mouth, we were getting more interest in the website and we found ourselves going to visit different schools and showing them the system. We’d often just meet up with a couple of people and then find ourselves invited to PTO meetings to demo what myFoodDays could do. Those meetings were a great chance to meet everyone and we were able to put a face to myFoodDays so people knew who they were working with and also knew that they were important customers that mattered. They knew that they could reach out to us at anytime and we would respond quite promptly so no one was left wondering what to do. In fact, our quick response time to questions is something I feel very proud of.

It soon became more evident that getting online payments working was a priority, people didn’t want to be bothered with writing cheques, they wanted to be able to pay online as they did with other online shopping websites. Online Payments went to the top of the priority list and in 2006 it was added to the website, and payments started to be processed online, meaning even more time was saved.

We were still printing reports and hand delivering those to the vendors. This was somewhat time consuming and with a little added pressure from me, in 2008 automatic reports were going out of the system direct to the vendors inboxes. We still would follow up with a phone call to make sure they had received them.

Having the website made the whole process of setting up ordering runs, taking orders and payments and then running the reports so much easier and less labour intensive.

I continued running the lunch program throughout my sons years at the elementary school and into the middle school. Once he had finished at the middle school, I still went in to help out occasionally when they needed me.

As the years have gone by and we have added more and more schools, myFoodDays has evolved. We’ve added more features as each new school has come along. Many schools have slightly different needs so we’ve created and added different functionality’s as requested. It has mostly grown from the requests that have come in. myFoodDays is always evolving to be better and we are able to do that with the wonderful schools that use our system and give us such great feedback around user experience.

myFoodDays is not just about lunch ordering, we also have - Mange your Volunteers and Committees, Send out Emails, Manage Events, Online Directory, Create Surveys, Record Attendance. These are all included when you sign up!

Still an after-school project, the next phase changed all of that...

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