During Black History Month, Aramark, WCU’s food service provider, decided to serve fried chicken and waffles with watermelon at Nyack Middle School in Rockland County, New York. ABC7NY spoke with a student, Honore Santiago, about the incident, and she explained, “’They were asking people if they want watermelon and I remember being confused because it’s not in season.’”
The story goes on to say, “Santiago immediately told her mom when she got home. Both were outraged by the message they say it sends to the school’s black students… The school’s principal said the menu was changed without the school’s knowledge and he says the items chosen, ‘reinforce negative stereotypes concerning the African-American community.’”
Representatives from Nyack Middle School later sent out a letter to parents, stating,
The offering of chicken & waffles as an entree with watermelon as a dessert on the first day of Black History Month was inexcusably insensitive and reflected a lack of understanding of our district’s vision to address racial bias.”
In a statement addressing the issue, representatives from Aramark said, “We apologize for the unintentional insensitivity shown on February 1, the first day of Black History Month. 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. This was a mistake and does not represent the values of our company, and we are committed to doing better in the future.”
In 2018, New York University severed ties with the food service provider because of the choice of food options during Black History Month, among other things. Reported on by Meghna Maharishi and Victor Porcelli of Washington Square News in 2019, they detail how “Aramark, originally named ARA, was first contracted by NYU in 1976, and has come under fire in recent years for a laundry list of issues.” Aramark has failed health inspections due to rat droppings, fired multiple managers due to “racial[ly] stereotyp[ed]” meals served during Black History Month and has faced protests from students speaking out against Aramark’s ties to the prison-industrial complex.
Aramark is West Chester University’s dining services contractor. On its website, Aramark clarifies it provides “food service, facilities and uniform services to hospitals, universities, school districts, stadiums and other businesses around the world.” Aramark’s headquarters are in Philadelphia, and, as previously stated, the company operates globally.
Students here at WCU have also had issues with the food provider, such as discontent with the quality and variety of dining options. As of this writing, Aramark and WCU Dining Services haven’t announced any special menus that celebrate Black History Month.
Isaiah Ireland is a second-year Media and Culture major with a minor in Digital Marketing. II978280@wcupa.edu.