School Apologizes for Serving Chicken and Waffles Plus Watermelon During Black History Month

Clean, empty school cafeteria with large windows is ready for students.
Clean, empty school cafeteria with large windows is ready for students.


Food-service vendor Aramark is facing criticism for serving students an "inexcusably insensitive" meal for Black History Month.

On Feb. 1, Nyack Middle School students were offered chicken and waffles with watermelon for lunch. The Nyack, N.Y. school says that the district's food vendor changed the original planned hot lunch menu without notice and served this meal instead.

In a letter shared with parents on Thursday, which was obtained by PEOPLE, principal David Johnson said, "We are extremely disappointed by this regrettable situation and apologize to the entire Nyack community for the cultural insensitivity displayed by our food service provider. 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."

Later that day, Aramark apologized, calling the incident a "mistake."

"While our menu was not intended as a cultural meal, we acknowledge that the timing was inappropriate, and our team should have been more thoughtful in its service," the company said in a statement on Nyack's website. "This was a mistake and does not represent the values of our company, and we are committed to doing better in the future."

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The statement continued to say that the company will work with the district "so employees who work in the schools participate in training that aligns to the Nyack School District's vision and commitment to equity-driven work. 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 did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

This is not the first time that Aramark has found itself in hot water for racially stereotyped menus. In 2018, the food vendor served NYU students a "Black History Month Menu" with ribs, collard greens, cornbread, smashed yams, mac and cheese, red Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water. The incident angered students, according to CNN, and eventually prompting the university to stop using Aramark as their food provider in 2019.

Similarly, back in 2011, the food-service company offered students at the University of California Irvine "MLK Holiday Special: Chicken and Waffles," according to a Los Angeles Times article.