Food News

Should Food Delivery Apps Be Banned from Schools?

February 16, 2017

So, here’s a conundrum. Earlier this week, Richard Chang of The Sacramento Bee reported that students in Granite Bay High School in California would be shirking the cafeteria and, instead, ordering from DoorDash, the enormously popular Bay Area delivery app made by two Stanford grads. It's a public high school with a closed campus, meaning that students can’t escape in their cars for lunch, creating a vacuum of hungry students who don't want cafeteria food or ones packed from home.

But this spate of students was too much for the school to handle. The school's hallways became overwhelmed with frantic, harried couriers looking for students. The sheer number of delivery persons arriving at the school upended the school’s organized sign-in system for guests. To fend this off, the school imposed a sweeping ban on the use of delivery apps during lunch. It’s a clampdown that has left some kids resorting to eating in the cafeteria, buddying up with friends and asking them for a bite of their food, or just starving themselves out of protest.

The school's Principal, Jennifer Leighton, was quoted in the story justifying the ban by saying that the situation was totally untenable. “We can’t manage it, and we shouldn’t manage it,” she told the paper. “It’s not our job to find a kid and make sure he knows his lunch is here.” Makes sense.

This flurry of students ordering food from their smartphones during lunch hours is clearly testing the limits of this high school's existing policies. It may signal that these policies need to change to keep up with the times. I guess this begs the question: should schools create policies responsive to this problem beyond mere bans that deal with handling food deliveries? Is it worth the trouble? If the use of delivery apps is so widespread that it necessitates a ban, I can see the benefit of creating a policy that regiments how food is delivered with the endgame of minimizing disruption for school officials. (Hopefully that policy would ease the stress of couriers, too.)

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But maybe I’m dead wrong. I’m not sure I’m best equipped to answer this question, frankly—I graduated high school seven years ago, well before the era of on-demand delivery apps. I had a weak, tinny flip phone. (I didn’t get a Blackberry until college; I got an iPhone after I graduated.) Though I used DoorDash roughly three times during college in the Bay Area, I always ordered from my computer. As for my high school lunches, I tried my best to always bring them from home.

Genuinely curious to know what you think—should food delivery apps be allowed in schools? Let me know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Postmates December 14, 2018
I eat ass
Drama Q. March 7, 2018
there is no need for kids to have to starve themselves out of protest. if they want food delivered to their school then that is what they should get.
paige5999 February 20, 2017
I work at a high school, and I haven't heard of this being a problem. But, there is a service that delivers meals to students daily. The company delivers the food all at once (sometimes they even collaborate with local restaurants) and that way the students have a different food option, but the school only has to deal with one mass delivery of food.
b February 17, 2017
how ridiculous! these kids sound like spoiled brats - a school's responsibility is to educate kids, not manage their lunch delivery. Parents (& students who are old enough to make their own lunch) need to stop placing their responsibilities on schools and take care of themselves. Kids raised in the technology age need to grow up and learn how to actually do things for themselves and manage their own lives, not leave everything up to others and smartphones. Our education system is stressed enough trying to provide meals to kids whose families cannot afford to feed them at home. If a high schooler has the money to order delivery every day than he or she can learn how to fend for themselves.
E February 17, 2017
There's a lot of judgement in the some of the comments, which is a shame. I went to a specialized public high school that had above NYC school average food, which isn't saying much. It was still crappy. We had a partially open campus, though that didn't matter much because there wasn't much around our school. I graduated ~10 years ago at this point, so no one used Seamless/Grubhub to my knowledge, but students would order in very often from the Chinese/Pizza/Diner joints, and we would pick up our food either at the lobby by the security guard, or right outside our school courtyard. No delivery people could enter inside the school, or past the courtyard area. I believe that is the easiest (and most obvious) solution because WHY are these delivery people roaming the schools/WHY are these students not using a pre-established area as the drop off zone? I believe most schools have a front desk/guard area, so that would be the most logical place for delivery transactions to happen, even in closed campus environments.

My school had a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch. I mention that because just because you are on free or reduced lunch doesn't preclude you from being able to splurge on take out or delivery once in a while. Nearly everyone I knew had part time or after school jobs, for example. Yes, of course, not everyone could order everyday, and some couldn't order at all, but at the end of the day... if the school day is made better by having somewhat less terrible food, and you have the funds to order food, why not? Often times, delivery orders were cheaper than what reduced priced lunch was if it was a whole pizza pie split among people (and in the Bronx, at least circa 2003-2007, pizza pies were like $8-9). I'm not saying my friends, classmates, and I made healthy choices anyway when ordering delivery, but the taste was at least far, far superior to most of the lunch room fare.
Nancy February 17, 2017
It seems there are 3 issues in this particular story:
1) school site security...this was a "closed campus" even before this outside food delivery matter arose.
2) food variety & quality
3) particular dietary needs (allergy, religious restriction).
If #1 is still needed, don't violate it just for food couriers. If not still needed, review & revise policy.
#2 Let the school take this interest in outside food as a wake-up call and improve its cafeteria offerings or introduce some competition.
#3 Get used to the responsibility of providing your own food. Most food service providers don't have the resources (money, knowledge, time) to provide for every allergy or preference.
Sasha February 16, 2017
If a kid with allergies forgets their lunch and wants to order from a restaurant that can do a better job of providing a safe lunch than the school cafeteria, then can they do so? I don't agree with bans, especially when school don't accommodate everyone's dietary, religious, or allergy needs.
caninechef February 16, 2017
Clearly schools these days are charged first and foremost with having a safe and secure environment. And that seems to be a bigger challenge everyday. I don't see how that requirement can be reconciled with a steady stream of food delivery people. I am not a proponent of giving up everything fun and good in life in a quest of security but I think the role society expects schools to play these days is pretty clear.
Spencer K. February 16, 2017
As a high school student in Los Angeles that has a school that had to ban the use of food delivery apps on campus due to the "unfair nature" of the system, I feel that schools should allow the use of delivery apps because it provides food just as the cafeteria would. My school have tried to enforce a no food delivery policy due the fact that some students may not be able to afford to use the service to provide food which I do not believe is the most justified reason to shut the use of these apps down.
Heather M. February 16, 2017
Delivery drivers texts the student that their food is there. The school needn't get involved in the process.
Kristin T. February 16, 2017
Good grief. Kids can't bring a lunch or deal with cafeteria food during the day? Having food delivered to the school seems like a big burden on administration and security. I'm with the principal on this one.
Olivia B. February 16, 2017
This blows my mind. Who has $15-$20 to spend on lunch every day??? Boo hoo, eat your sad turkey sandwich and ziploc baggie of pretzels. I did! (Also, in my day, I walked 15 miles uphill in the snow to school. Heh heh.)
Brittanie February 16, 2017
I think that if the kids help manage the problem of delivery guys trying to find them, they should be able to order in. Nothing is worse then having to eat crap cafeteria food and continue to learn all day. Plus, if so many of them are ordering out, maybe they should look at their food and see about improving it so it appeals to the kids more.
cookinalong February 16, 2017
If you really think that there's nothing worse than having to eat cafeteria food, you are one very lucky girl.