Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ridgewood school district orders end to lunch deliveries

This decision to ban the existing lunch vendors from dropping off lunches on Ridgewood school grounds hurts 2 businesses in Ridgewood and 1 in Midland Park that employ people.  The decision also hurts many Ridgewood families, especially ones where both parents work and are pressed for time in the morning.

This weekend, I get an email from the Ridgewood school email server, promoting a new lunch provider called "Village Fresh".  Although one might hope that a school email service would be used solely to disseminate information and not for commercial purposes, this email is clearly an advertisement for the Village Fresh service.  First off, do we really want our school system giving/leasing/lending our personal email addresses to benefit an outside vendor.  Second, the BOE allowed the vendor to make statements that are, at best, misleading and at worst, false. "Village Fresh is not an outside vendor delivery system.  Delivery people are not strangers; they are cafeteria employees who have been approved to work in schools.".  This claim is spurious in that Village Fresh seems to be an out-of village company based in Fairfield, NJ and the "cafeteria employees" they reference are not employees of any Ridgewood school cafeteria but are generic cafeteria workers whose company has signed a contract with the Ridgewood BOE.

I'm hearing gobbledygook that the reasons for this change are a) a concern for child safety from unknown delivery people (WestSide Bagel and Parkwood Deli use the same delivery person every day) and b) state/federal mandates requiring all school lunches meet certain nutritional standards (if so, are they next going to tell me what  lunch I can pack at home and send to school?).

There is a Board of Education meeting on Monday night where this issue will be discussed.  I will be there and I know of other concerned parents who will be there as well.  I feel the main questions, besides concerns over  how we treat our town businesses and the curious use of the school email system are 1) why is Ridgewood BOE eliminating lunch delivery vendors that town parents know and trust, 2) why did the BOE not allow the existing vendors (located in and around town) to bid on this contract? and 3) if a Village Fresh contract with exclusive features has been signed, should the BOE be signing an exclusive vendor contract without review from the families they purportedly serve?