As New York schools recognize Black History Month, one Hudson Valley middle school is apologizing to their community after a controversial lunch. Nyack Middle School says their food vendor Aramark made an unsanctioned menu change that was served to students on the first day of February.

According to their website, Nyack Middle serves around 650 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. 17% of Nyack residents are Black, according to Census data.

On February 1, the school cafeteria served fried chicken and waffles with a dessert of watermelon. The school district and Aramark were called out by parents and local leaders for promoting racist stereotypes under the auspices of celebrating Black culture and achievement.

In an apology letter to parents, Nyack Middle School Principal David Johnson said, “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.”

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Aramark deviated from the planned lunch of Philly cheesesteaks, broccoli, and fruit. Both Nyack Schools and Aramark have yet to release a specific, concrete reason as to why the menu was changed. If this is an accident, it’s truly one of those incidents where you stop and wonder, ‘Do they run this by anyone?’ I mean it.  Absolutely anyone else.

"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.” said Aramark in a release to CNN.

This is the second time Aramark has served an inappropriate meal in New York for Black History Month. In 2018, Aramark served a “special Black History Month lunch” of ribs, collard greens, yams, Kool-Aid, and watermelon flavored water at New York University. The resulting backlash saw two Aramark employees fired and NYU’s contract with the vendor terminated.

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