A vendor that provides food service to schools has apologized for a Black History Month menu of «unintentional insensitivity,» echoing similar apologies it has made for more than a decade amid backlash over racially charged menus. insensitive
Students at Nyack Middle School in New York were served chicken and waffles with a choice of watermelon for dessert on the first day of Black History Month last week, according to WABC television station. Both the school’s administration and its food supplier, Aramark, 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 «unforgivable mistake.»
«We have apologized for our mistake, we are working to determine how it happened and make sure it never happens again,» the statement said. «Our team at that school should have been more considerate of their service.»
Nyack High School Principal David Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on Sunday. He said in a letter to parents that the school was unaware of the menu, WABC reported.
«The vendor has agreed to plan future menu offerings to align with our values and our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion,» the letter said. «We are extremely disappointed in this unfortunate situation and apologize to the entire Nyack community for the cultural insensitivity displayed by our food service provider.»
Aramark has been behind similar black holiday menus 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 Los Angeles Timesthat 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, kale, Kool-Aid and flavored water. to watermelon according to the New York Times.
Aramark said in that case that two employees had independently planned the menu and were fired.
An editorial published in the school newspaper, Washington Square Newscalled Aramark’s «racial stereotyping» on college campuses «unacceptable.»
«Although Aramark has publicly apologized, he must be judged for his 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 cut its ties with Aramark in 2019 and has sought different vendors, according to the Washington Square Newsafter students protested practices and quality of the company to the administration. The university’s food services now partner with Chartwells, its website states.
Historically, associating certain foods with black culture stems from how they were once used in popular media to portray blacks in America as poor and uneducated after slavery was abolished.
In the 1915 silent film «The Birth of a Nation,» fried chicken was used as part of the derogatory portrayals of blacks. White actors in blackface were seen eating fried chicken and throwing bones around the buildings of Congress.
The watermelon, for example, has been linked to poverty for centuries. He Atlantic reported in 2014 that as early as 1801, a British officer stationed in Egypt called it a «feast of the poor Arabs.»
But the stereotype became more widespread in the US after emancipation, when caricatures of freed slaves sought to paint blacks as ignorant and brainless, according to the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan.