So, here’s a conundrum. Earlier this week, Richard Chang of The Sacramento Beereported 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.
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.