Instead of packing lunches, many high school students now pack their cellphones, ordering food delivered to their school with apps like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.
The deliveries have become so frequent and disruptive that many schools have banned them.
"It was getting to the point where you'd have eight, 10, 15 deliveries a day," said Pat Watson, principal at West Bloomfield High School in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan. The Detroit metro area recently reminded students to knock it off. "It's a building policy: You can't have food delivered during the school day," Watson said.
"We view it as a safety concern," said Diane Blain, spokeswoman for Chippewa Valley Schools in Macomb County, Michigan, north of Detroit. "Having strangers and people that we don’t know coming to our buildings with delivery bags, we just don’t allow it."
April freebies: Your monthly guide to food specials, meal deals and more
Plant-based progress: Vegan and meat-free fast-food options are growing. Here's where to find them.
Blain said the district's Dakota High School banned the practice about three years ago, and its other high school, Chippewa Valley, followed suit.
Some schools have policies explicitly prohibiting it. Others frown on it, but don't formally ban it. All of them say the practice has exploded with cellphone use and the proliferation of delivery services.
High school students aren't the only ones who order food deliveries to school, said Jeff Hueter, assistant manager of the Jet's Pizza about a mile north of West Bloomfield High. Some students in elementary school will have pizza delivered for lunch, he said.
"The parents will call and say my kid's lunch is at noon, can you deliver a pizza to the office and maybe throw in a bottle of water?" Hueter said.
Parents typically pay with a credit card or through the Jet's app on their phone. The delivery driver will bring plates and napkins if requested, he said.
Jet's charges $3.50 for delivery compared with $4 for Grubhub, he said. His pizza place is across the street from a middle school and a prep school, in addition to two nearby elementary schools. All of them are good for business, he said.
Teachers are known to order a pie for lunch as well, he said.
Not all of the schools in the same area address the delivery issue in the same manner. The Plymouth-Canton School District, just northeast of Ann Arbor, Michigan, which operates three high schools in one location, doesn't have a formal policy about food deliveries, but the building procedures don't allow it, said spokesman Nick Brandon.
The main reason for the ban is school safety, he said, but there are other reasons as well.
"The second that food enters the school office, it becomes the school office's responsibility," Brandon said, adding it created concerns of food safety, food-borne illnesses and allergic reactions.
"It's also a workload issue for office personnel," he said. "If they're having to manage multiple food orders at a given lunch time with all the other things they have to be responsible for, that's a concern as well."
Waiting for lunch
The district works hard to provide healthy, good tasting food in its cafeterias and students are always free to brown bag it, Brandon said.
And deliveries aren't always on time. Tardy deliveries made for tardy students, said Watson, the West Bloomfield principal.
"It's supposed to be here at 12 and my lunch is done at 12:30," Watson said. "Now it shows up at 12:35 so now I haven't gone to class. But now I've got my Panera and I go to class to eat in there."
Watson said teachers object to kids eating in class, but the students would complain it wasn't their fault, the delivery was late. Watson also has heard plenty of excuses for why an order was placed.
"Kids say, 'Oh, my mom forgot to put money on my lunch account'," Watson said. One student claimed a cousin ordered it for him, not knowing it wasn't allowed. But that claim seemed doubtful when the delivery driver knew the student's name, Watson said.
The school does allow deliveries to school after class ends, so students staying after school for a sport or other extracurricular activity can order all they want, he said.
"When I was in high school we knew to pack two lunches, one for lunch and one for after school," Watson said. "I guess the new normal is you whip out your cellphone and order some food."
Cellphones have become so pervasive in high schools that Watson has used them to his own advantage. When he wanted to remind kids of the no food orders during school hours policy, he sent it out in a tweet.
Is my food safe?: Gluten found in 32% of food labeled gluten-free, new study says
McDonald's menu change: McDonald’s cuts its premium sandwiches line, Signature Crafted Recipes, after two years
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Schools curb students' appetites for Grubhub, Uber Eats deliveries during school day