NYACK, Rockland County (WABC) -- A food vendor in Rockland County is apologizing for what it calls "unintentional insensitivity" for the hot lunch it offered students on the first day of Black History Month.
Students at Nyack Middle School were given chicken and waffles with watermelon for dessert on Feb. 1.
"They were asking people if they want watermelon and I remember being confused because it's not in season," said student Honore Santiago.
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.
"Didn't think the company was capable of making us feel bad...especially the kids my color," Santiago said.
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."
"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," the school said in a letter to parents. "Nyack Public Schools administrators contacted Aramark officials to insist on a mechanism to avoid a repeat of yesterday's mistake. The vendor has agreed to plan future menu offerings to align with our values and our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. 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."
The food vendor, Aramark, released the following statement:
"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. We will be partnering 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."
NYU severed ties with Aramark in 2018 after it served students ribs, collard greens and Kool-aid during Black History Month.
Students hope the latest instance is the last time.
Nyack school officials said Wednesday's lunch was supposed to be Philly cheesesteak, broccoli and fresh fruit.
Aramark usually posts menus directly on the district's website. School officials said they don't typically look at the menus with scrutiny, but going forward they will.
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