Food, Pro Bono, Ridiculousness

Fordham University: Teaching Kids How to Ignore the Homeless, One Beet or Carrot at a Time

A week or two ago, someone asked us why we use Fordham Law as our personal punching bag. We don’t. The school just provides us with great fodder to write about. Yeah, we might joke about graduates of Fordham being homeless, but some law students at the school are actually trying to help the less fortunate. You know, the thing that lawyers are supposed to do?

Take, for example, Michael Zimmerman. He’s a current 3L at Fordham Law who founded a farm-share program called Farm to Fordham. Amazingly, we’re not talking about a Facebook program. Zimmerman did this in real life. For a small fee each semester, students, faculty, and staff were able to purchase a share of fresh produce from a farm in central New York. Nearly 100 pounds of vegetables were donated to a local soup kitchen with every delivery. The program was so successful that even Michael Martin, the dean of Fordham Law, had enrolled as a member.

This sounds like a wonderful program, right? A future lawyer was supporting his community with a laudable service project. That’s probably why Fordham University decided to shut it down….

That’s right. After months of backhanded interference with the program, the University decided to shut down Farm to Fordham. The New York Times has more information on what happened:

[O]n Wednesday, [Zimmerman] was forwarded an e-mail from the university’s legal counsel, indicating that it would no longer allow the initiative.

“Fordham cannot be placed in a position to break the law,” the message read, in part.

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 the ABA Journal, Bob Howe, a University representative, admitted that this amounted to what he called a “Catch-22.” Here at Above the Law, we’re going to call it “a steaming pile of bullsh*t.” I mean, really, come on. How can you readily admit to trying to force an inapplicable law down this kid’s throat?

Howe went on to state that the University needed to make a cost-benefit analysis about serving the greatest good in deciding whether to let Zimmerman’s program continue. Apparently feeding the homeless just wasn’t “enough good,” even though the University had previously bragged about all of the charitable benefits of Farm to Fordham’s mission.

And now that Farm to Fordham has been shut down, patrons of the soup kitchen at Church of St. Paul the Apostle — people who don’t typically have access to the kinds of food we take for granted — have been left wondering what happened to their fresh vegetables. Way to kick a man when he’s down, Fordham.

Just to be clear, Fordham officials, we were the ones who made fun of Fordham grads with a picture of a homeless guy. Punish us, Above the Law, not the homeless people of New York City.

Above the Law spoke to Zimmerman about Fordham’s decision to shut the program down, and this is what he had to say:

Michael Zimmerman

The University’s most recent rationale for prohibiting community supported agriculture (CSA), nearby construction, is not credible. They came up with that excuse a week ago – six months after first banning the program. Over the intervening months the University has proposed, and Farm to Fordham has disposed with, at least six other rationalizations.

This strongly indicates that the University made its initial determination without a good reason, and has since dug in its heels. We still do not know why the University has chosen to oppose the CSA.

Farm to Fordham is still interested in keeping the program running. We went to the press as an absolute last resort, but would prefer to put the whole controversy behind us and go about our business bringing people fresh vegetables.

Zimmerman also mentioned that “the law school has been extremely supportive, and has in every way exceeded its obligations to Farm to Fordham.” He didn’t mention whether those obligations included legal assistance to combat the University’s ridiculous claims.

But if the law school truly supported the program, don’t you think that the administration should have fought a little harder to support one of its student’s community initiatives?

And you wonder why we mock Fordham.

Buying Local, Feeding Needy, Till Fordham Calls a Halt [New York Times]
Fordham Shuts Down 3L’s Farm Program, Makes ‘Catch-22’ Demand for Catering Permit [ABA Journal]

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