Law School Can’t Solve Fairly Simple Legal Problem

Burlington College

Last year Michael Zimmerman, a student at Fordham University School of Law, decided to start a program to bring independently-grown food to his school, in midtown Manhattan.

Called Farm to Fordham, it was one of those projects that seemed perfect for admissions and public relations purposes. Farm-grown food in the city! Students, faculty, and staff paid about $150 a semester to get fruits and vegetables from a farm in central New York.

Sheila Foster, associate dean for academic affairs, said earlier this month that “The program really piggybacks on a larger movement, urban farming and local food, and it does it in the context where we have a service mission,” she said. “It’s been great.

Well not great enough to keep it going. According to an article by Matt Flegenheimer in the New York Times:

Farm to Fordham, was officially shuttered last week — the culmination of a convoluted process that began in April, when security personnel refused to open the gate for a vegetable delivery.

Months earlier, the university had told Mr. Zimmerman that to maintain the program, he would need to secure a one-day catering permit each time the farm made a delivery. But the program was not a catering service; it was a community-supported agriculture network. And neither the State Department of Agriculture and Markets nor the city’s health department issues or requires permits for such networks.

According to Bob Howe, Fordham’s director of communications, the decision….”incorporated a host of other factors: the specter of infestation, concerns about honoring the university’s food service contracts, and the program’s potential interference with construction at the law school.”

Why, exactly, the food would impinge on these things is somewhat unclear.

In its email to Zimmerman, the university’s legal counsel maintained that Fordham would no longer allow the initiative to take place in part because, “Fordham cannot be placed in a position to break the law.” Zimmerman was, however, breaking no laws. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer