Food vendor apologizes for serving culturally insensitive school lunch on 1st day of Black History Month

Aramark logo on a truck
(Image credit: NurPhoto / Contributor/ Getty Images)

Food vendor Aramark has apologized for the "unintentional insensitivity" of the menu offered at a New York middle school on the first day of Black History Month. The apology is reminiscent, NBC News writes, of "similar apologies [Aramark] has made for more than a decade amid backlash over racially insensitive menus."

Though it said the menu was "not intended as a cultural meal," Aramark acknowledged that "the timing was inappropriate, and our team should have been more thoughtful in its service." After students and their families pointed out that the meal reinforced negative stereotypes about Black people and their affinity for certain foods, the company apologized for its "mistake," adding that it "does not represent the values of our company," per CNN. "We believe this will provide a good learning opportunity to deepen understanding on the impact of systemic biases and negative stereotypes concerning the African-American Community," Aramark added.

In a letter to parents, Nyack Middle School Principal David Johnson denounced the vendor for the "inexcusably insensitive" lunch menu served on Feb 1st. Instead of what was initially scheduled, the food vendor served students chicken and waffles with watermelon. The menu change "reflected a lack of understanding of our district's vision to address racial bias," Johnson wrote.

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Watermelon and fried chicken have been used as racist tropes to mock Black people "since the Jim Crow era," The Washington Post explains.

Aramark has been accused of serving culturally insensitive menus at schools before. In February 2018, the company offered a special Black History Month menu that included "two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water," The New York Times wrote at the time. And in 2011, the company promised to send its chefs to cultural sensitivity training after serving chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the University of California, Irvine.

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