The owners of three local businesses told last week to cease their lunch deliveries to Ridgewood schools petitioned the board of education Monday night to reconsider the new policy barring them from delivering meals to district staff and students.
Superintendent Dan Fishbein, who sent a letter to parents citing safety concerns, parking issues and problems of disruptions for school staff as reasons for the ban, said a contractual issue with the district’s cafeteria service prohibits the businesses’ current system of delivering lunch to students.
The five-year, annually renewable contract finalized last June with The Pomptonian, Inc., specifies that the district “shall assure that there are no competitive sales during the cafeteria’s hours of operation.”
Fishbein said although the district does not pay for the deliveries to students from outside vendors, the involvement of front office staff in distributing the meals could be interpreted as a breach of the contract. He said school officials were not aware of the potential legal issue when the initial letter went out to parents and area businesses last week.
“We’re accepting and distributing [the lunches]. We’re being used to run the businesses,” Fishbein told Patch. “Our staff should not be involved in the operation of their businesses.”
The owners of West Side Bagels and Deli, Parkwood Deli and No Fuss Lunch, three businesses who deliver frequently to students, pressed on school officials Monday night to reconsider the policy, and said they were willing to work to address the concerns stated in Fishbein’s initial letter. And, echoed by a handful of parents who attended the meeting, they also defended the practice as an issue of choice for the families who place orders for their children.
“The [food in the cafeteria] is unacceptable to the kids. That’s why this business has skyrocketed and gotten so big,” said Roger Schnorrbusch, of Parkwood Deli. “I just think it’s unfair that you’re taking this away from the mothers and the kids that come into our business everyday and want to eat our food for lunch.”
The district’s cafeteria menu has been revamped and no longer operates at the deficit of years past, noted district Business Administrator Michael Falkowski. But Gabriella Wilday, co–founder of No Fuss Lunch and a mother of three Ridge School students, said the demand for alternatives remains high.
“We’re willing to work with you because I think there’s a large community of parents that want to choose,” she told district officials.
The business operates without a storefront, and only delivers pre-ordered lunches to schools. Since
being informed the deliveries would no longer be allowed as of this week, Wilday said, No Fuss has also taken a substantial financial hit, canceling orders that had already been placed through the end of the month. The small company also delivers to schools in neighboring towns.
“I’ve been shut down,” she said. “And I’ve had to refund 668 orders.”
Fishbein said there would “absolutely not” be further restrictions on parents delivering lunches to their children. He stood by his original suggestion that the businesses propose a method ensuring school staff has no involvement in facilitating the deliveries.