New York students were served chicken, waffles, and watermelon on the first day of Black History Month.
The school apologized for the "unfortunate situation" but blamed the food vendor Aramark.
Aramark issued an apology and acknowledged that the lunch's "timing was inappropriate."
Students at a New York middle school were served chicken and waffles with a side of watermelon on the first day of Black History Month, prompting the school and food vendor Aramark to apologize.
The school lunch in question was served to students at Nyack Middle School on February 1, a decision that upset some students and parents. As Insider's Angelica Cheyenne reported, foods like watermelon have often been rolled into stereotypes against Black Americans.
"They were asking people if they want watermelon and I remember being confused because it's not in season," Honore Santiago, a student at Nyack Middle School, told WABC.
She added: "Didn't think the company was capable of making us feel bad...especially the kids my color."
Principal David Johnson called the contested school lunch an "unfortunate situation" in a statement to WABC, but ultimately blamed Aramark. Aramark works with schools to organize school menus and provide lunch.
"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," Johnson told the outlet.
Johnson added that the administration contacted Aramark to discuss initiatives to prevent a similar situation from cropping up again.
"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," Johnson told WABC.
Aramark also released a statement to WABC that the chicken, waffle, and watermelon were not meant to be "a cultural meal."
"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," a statement from Aramrak read.
The statement continued that serving the school lunch on the first day of Black History Month was a "mistake," adding that Aramark will partner with the district to provide school employees with "training that aligns to the Nyack School District's vision and commitment to equity-driven work."
"This was a mistake and does not represent the values of our company, and we are committed to doing better in the future," the statement read. "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's Instagram account soon became swarmed with disgruntled social media users, with some people calling out the company in the comment section of its most recent post.
Representatives for Aramark did not immediately reply to Insider's request for comment.
This is not the first time Aramark has faced backlash over its lunch menus.
The New York Post reported in April 2019 that New York University cut ties with Aramark after it served ribs, collard greens, and Kool-aid during Black History Month in 2018.
Other institutions have apologized for similar menu fails, including The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, which served a "Juneteenth Watermelon Salad" in June 2022.