School food vendor apologizes for ‘inexcusable’ Black History Month menu, and it’s not the first time

A supplier who provides catering services to schools has apologized for a Black History Month menu of ‘unintentional insensitivity’, echoing similar apologies made for more than a decade amid backlash for race-insensitive menus.

Students at Nyack Middle School in New York were given chicken and waffles with a watermelon option for dessert on the first day of Black History Month last week, according to TV station WABC. . The school administration and its food vendor, Aramark, have apologized after students and parents pointed out the racial stereotypes the menu reinforces.

Aramark, the seller, said in a statement to NBC News on Sunday that the situation “should never have happened” and apologized for what he called an “inexcusable mistake.”

“We apologize for our mistake, we are working to determine how this happened and to make sure it never happens again,” the statement read. “Our team at this school should have been more thoughtful in their service.”

Nyack Middle School principal David Johnson did not immediately return a request for comment to NBC News on Sunday. He said in a letter to parents that the school was unaware of the menu, WABC reported.

“The supplier has agreed to plan future menu offerings to align with our values ​​and our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion,” the letter states. “We are extremely disappointed by this unfortunate situation and apologize to the entire Nyack community for the cultural insensitivity displayed by our catering provider.”

Aramark has been behind similar menus on holidays commemorating black people that have sparked controversy at two other universities in recent years. In 2011, Aramark served chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Day at the University of California, Irvine.

He said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times, that the company would conduct cultural sensitivity training for all managers and chefs.

New York University students demanded the school cut ties with Aramark after it served an insensitive menu for Black History Month in 2018 that included cornbread, collard greens, Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water, according to The New York Times.

Aramark said in that case that two employees planned the menu independently and they were fired.

An editorial in the school’s newspaper, Washington Square News, called Aramark’s “racial stereotyping” on college campuses “unacceptable.”

“Although Aramark has issued a broad public apology, she must be judged on her actions,” the editorial said. “Serving racially stereotypical food during Black History Month is another clear indicator that Aramark’s values ​​as a company are misaligned.”

NYU is seeking to sever ties with Aramark in 2019 and has sought out different vendors, according to the Washington Square News, after students protested the company’s practices and quality to administration. The university’s catering services are now in partnership with Chartwells, its website says.

The association of certain foods with black culture stems historically from how they were once used in popular media to portray black people in America as poor and uneducated after the abolition of slavery.

In the 1915 silent film “The Birth of a Nation”, fried chicken was used as part of derogatory depictions of black people. White actors dressed in blackface were seen eating fried chicken and throwing bones around congressional buildings.

Watermelon, for example, has been linked to poverty for centuries. The Atlantic reported in 2014 that as early as 1801 a British officer stationed in Egypt called it a “poor Arab party”.

But the stereotype spread to the United States after emancipation, when cartoons of freed slaves sought to portray black people as ignorant and stupid, according to the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan.


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