The Octagon

Students try out food-delivery policy

Safety threat from Postmates, DoorDash leads to new high school rule

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Jack Christian
Junior Mehdi Lacombe notifies Valerie Velo, assistant to the head of high school, about his Postmates order of Chinese takeout from The Mandarin Restaurant in May.

Postmates, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Eat24. This collection of gastronomic terms represents a small portion of a quickly growing industry: food delivery.

It’s simple. Mark your order from countless restaurants through their apps, and after an address and delivery time are entered, the food will arrive, delivered by one of many local drivers.

These online food-delivery services are popular with Country Day students. 

In a May 10 Octagon poll of 68 high school students, over two-thirds said they had used these services to order food to be delivered to campus.

However, this usage has led to a growing concern with strangers wandering the campus, according to head of high school Brooke Wells.

Unlike the car toppers and uniforms of pizza deliverers, for instance, there are very few identifying features of drivers through services like Postmates and DoorDash. 

Lower and middle school teachers have reported seeing unknown people on campus daily. Many were lost food-delivery drivers.

And when a teacher spots an unknown person walking on campus, the issue of security and safety arises. 

While drivers for nearly all of the delivery companies go through background checks, precautions still need to be taken, Wells said.

Because of these concerns, Wells met with the Student Council on April 30 to find a solution to the potential dangers of high schoolers using food-delivery services.

Since many companies require that users be 18 years old or older, technically, the use could have been banned, as it is in the middle school and other area schools like St. Francis Catholic High School. 

However, an alternative was discussed, which was eventually put into writing by junior Blake Lincoln, who will be co-vice president of the student body next year.

A new set of guidelines was sent to high school students on May 7. 

The policy stipulates that deliveries are now allowed only during free periods and lunch. Whereas previously, students could have food delivered during classes when the teacher permitted it, the new window was put in place so that there is now a set time frame when deliverers can be on campus.

In addition to the time restrictions, Valerie Velo, assistant to the head of high school, must now be notified of any orders, and the food must be delivered to (and picked up in) the handicapped-accessible parking spots.

“(Right now) it’s just a pilot program,” Lincoln said. “If it works out well, (the guidelines) will become policy for the high school.”

The new guidelines seem to be effective in lessening delivery traffic on campus, Wells said.

“I have not heard of any delivery folks wandering around since we piloted Student Council’s proposal, so it looks like a good plan that is going smoothly so far,” he said.

Now Velo said she is notified about once a day. 

These policies are similar to one currently in place at Jesuit High School, where students must order through the dean’s office. When the food arrives, the student is alerted through the school’s loudspeakers, according to former SCDS student junior Ben Miner. 

However, Country Day’s new policy isn’t popular with all high school students. While 36 students had no opinion of it, 18 – over a quarter – said they do not like the new policy. 

Lincoln said he foresaw some of the complaints, as “generally, students can be a little pessimistic or nervous about administrator intervention.”

However, a few students who had initially disliked the policy have changed their minds.

“It only takes a few seconds to stop by Valerie’s office,” junior Mehdi Lacombe said.

“(And) having the drivers go to the handicapped spot is also useful because it means I don’t have to wander around the parking lot looking for them.”

But freshman Hana Lee, who has ordered food under the new guidelines, said that the system is more complicated.

“It discourages people from using (services like) Postmates,” Lee said. 

“And I don’t know if that’s the point, but I don’t order as much anymore.”

Lee is one of 24 students who said that they would use food-delivery services less.

But rather than a full ban on those services, as in the middle school, the guidelines keep food delivery an option for high schoolers.

“(This) is something that’s not going to infringe on people ordering food,” Lincoln said. “It’s (minimal), and it keeps the service available for students.”

Wells agreed, adding that because parents now must notify the school that their child is allowed to order food on campus, parents will be more informed about these expenditures.

“I don’t think it is a bad thing to use a service like Postmates as a special treat,” he said. 

“(But) healthier and cheaper options can come from your fridge at home.”

Originally published in the June 6 edition of the Octagon.

—By Allison Zhang

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