An order for food service at schools was made by a vendor who apologized for an “unintentional error” Black History Month menu. This is the same apology it has been making for over a decade, amid backlash against racially insensitive menus.
According to television station WABC, Nyack Middle School students were treated to chicken and waffles with the option of watermelon as dessert on the first day Black History Month. After parents and students pointed out the racist stereotypes that the menu perpetuates, both the school’s management and Aramark, the food vendor, apologized.
Aramark, the vendor, stated in a statement to NBC News that the situation “never ought to have happened” and it apologized for the “inexcusable error.”
The statement stated that “We have apologized for our error, and are working to determine why it occurred” “Our team at this school should have been more thoughtful in their service.”
David Johnson, Nyack Middle School principal, did not immediately respond to NBC News’ Sunday comment request. WABC reported that Johnson did inform parents in a letter that the school was not aware of the menu.
The letter stated that the vendor had agreed to make future menus to reflect our values and our longstanding commitment towards diversity and inclusion. “We are deeply disappointed in this unfortunate situation and we apologize to the Nyack community.
Aramark was behind similar menus for holidays that commemorate Black people. These menus caused controversy at two universities in recent years. Aramark served chicken with waffles at the University of California Irvine on Martin Luther King Day 2011.
According to the Los Angeles Times at the time, it stated that all chefs and managers would receive cultural sensitivity training.
New York University students demanded that Aramark cut all ties with the school after the company served a sensitive menu for Black History Month 2018. The menu included cornbread and collard greens as well as watermelon-flavored water. According to the New York Times
Aramark stated in the case that Aramark and two other employees had independently planned the menu and they were terminated.
A school newspaper Washington Square News published an editorial calling the “racial stereotypeing” of college campuses by Aramark “unacceptable.”
The editorial stated that Aramark had made public apologies but should be judged on the actions it took. Aramark’s values are clearly misaligned by serving racially-stranged food during Black History Month.
NYU wants to end its relationship with Aramark in 2019. The Washington Square News reported that NYU sought to find other vendors after students had protested about the company’s practices. Chartwells is now the university’s partner in dining services, according to its website.
The historical association of certain foods with Black culture stems from the way they were used in popular media to portray Black Americans as poor and uncultured after the abolition.
Fried chicken was used in the derogatory portrayals of Black people in “The Birth of a Nation”, a silent 1915 film. White actors in blackface were seen eating fried Chicken and throwing bones around the Congress buildings.
For centuries, watermelon has been associated with poverty. In 2014 , the Atlantic reported that a British officer stationed at Egypt in 1801 called it a “poor Arab feast”.
The stereotype was made more popular in the U.S. by caricatures of slaves who tried to portray Black people as ignorant and brainless, according the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, Michigan.