HipHopWired Featured Video
Cafeteria, Middle School, Public

Source: John Coletti / Getty

A food company publicly apologized after students at a school in upstate New York were served a racially insensitive lunch at the beginning of Black History Month.

According to reports, students at Nyack Middle School were served chicken and waffles with a side of watermelon last Wednesday (Feb. 1), the first day of Black History Month. The original menu offerings were supposed to be Philly cheesesteaks, broccoli and fresh fruit. Students including Honore Santiago spoke out about the meal. “I was questioning because they don’t usually give watermelon,” she said.

Principal David Johnson sent out a letter to parents apologizing for the situation. “I am disappointed that Aramark would serve items that differed from the published monthly menu, especially items that reinforce negative stereotypes concerning the African-American community,” the letter read.

Johnson called the menu items “insensitive.” He contacted the school’s food provider Aramark to voice his concern and to see if this situation can be avoided in the future. “If they had served chicken and waffles by itself, I don’t know that we would be having this conversation. But the moment you add in the watermelon, that changed the whole complexion, literally,” Wilbur Aldridge of the Nyack chapter of the NAACP said.

A spokesperson from Aramark released a statement, saying: “The situation at that middle school was our mistake and never should have happened. It stands in direct contrast to who we are as a company and our longstanding commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We have apologized for our mistake, and are working to determine how it happened and make sure it never happens again.”

The interim school superintendent, James Montesano, said that the company has committed to working with the school to have “workshops that are focused around the concept of equity and institutional racism,” involving their employees.

This wasn’t the first time that Aramark has wound up in a scandal along these lines. In 2018, students at New York University were served barbecued ribs, collard greens, cornbread, Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water during Black History Month. After a vocal backlash, the workers involved were fired and the company apologized. For Honore Santiago, she just has one thought about it all: “I just hope that they won’t do it again, at a different school or my school ever again.”