Aramark Serves Up a Controversial Meal – and It’s Not the First Time

Aramark's logo (photo credit: Aramark Newsroom)

Aliyah Williams
Copy Editor

ESU’s food vendor, Aramark, faced controversy after students were served chicken and waffles
with a side of watermelon on the first day of Black History Month at Nyack Middle School in
New York.

The company quickly apologized, following outcries from upset parents and students,

“We apologize for the unintentional insensitivity shown on February 1, the first day of Black
History Month,” said an Aramark statement. “This was a mistake and does not represent the
values of our company, and we are committed to doing better in the future.”

Despite these condolences, many were not so accepting of the apology.

Still, Aramark’s public image maintains that of a caring and compassionate company, with its
respective Twitter account and newsroom page not addressing the situation. On the same day of
the incident, Aramark posted on its Twitter account that they were named to Fortune Magazine’s
“World’s Most Admired Companies List,” for 2022.

This accolade is one of many diversity-based awards that the company has received since its
initial founding in the 1930s.

According to an Aramark statement, “Aramark has been named to DiversityInc’s ‘Top 50
Companies for Diversity’ list, the Forbes list of ‘America’s Best Employers for Diversity,’ the
HRC’s ‘Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality’ and scored 100% on the Disability Equality

Regardless of the various recognitions, the 2023 incident is not the first time that Aramark has
come under scrutiny concerning its menu choices.

In 2018, the company gained national attention after serving barbeque ribs, cornbread, collard
greens, watermelon-flavored water, Kool-Aid and other insensitive foods to students during
Black History Month at New York University (NYU).

According to the university’s website, NYU has since severed ties with the corporation, and the
employees who were responsible for the event have been terminated.

Only a week prior, Loyola University in Chicago was provided with a similar menu to NYU’s,
featuring fried chicken, collard greens and grape Kool-Aid.

Yet another related incident occurred in 2011 when Aramark served fried chicken and waffles to
the University of California at Irvine students on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Numerous cases claiming racial discrimination have been filed against the corporation, as well as
other controversies that include allegations concerning animal abuse, gender discrimination and
unsanitary practices.

These patterns have not gone unnoticed in the student community, with various schools across
the United States creating petitions for their universities to cut ties with the corporation.
Students at Boston University created a petition gaining over 3,000 signatures in 2020 that
demanded their school separate from Aramark’s provisions because of their contribution to the
prison industry.

According to the company’s fact sheet, approximately 450 correctional facilities are provided
food by Aramark in North America, next to the three million college students they serve every

The company has previously come under fire because of its presence in correctional institutions,
a number of which have sued the company for discrepancies with food quality and unethical
prison labor.

“Aramark is a massive dining service company that directly profits off of and perpetuates the
prison-industrial complex, and we demand that our tuition dollars do not go into perpetuating the
suffering and imprisonment of Black and brown people,” said the petition’s details written by
Students Against Mass Incarceration.

Aramark continues to face repercussions for the most recent incident, with many students and
their families left feeling deeply hurt by the inflicted stereotypes.