Lunch With a Side of Prejudice
March 31, 2018
On the evening before Civil Rights Day, the boarding students had a screening of 13th, a documentary by Ava DuVernay, which shows how the 13th Amendment ended slavery, but the document makes an exception “as punishment for a crime.” The documentary goes on to look into the private prison industry and different companies making money off of prisons. This included food providers, such as Philadelphia-based Aramark. Aramark provides food to many places beyond prisons, yet prisons form a large share of their business. According to their website, last year Aramark served 380 million meals in prisons nationwide. Aramark’s conduct when it comes to prison food has been in question for years. In an article published in Vice, written in 2016, titled “What It’s Like to Eat Some of the Worst Prison Food in America,” author Stephen Katz writes, “lunch also shouldn’t taste so bad that it destabilizes prison yards. That, however, is what happens with troubling regularity in Aramark-run kitchens.” He is referring to multiple incidents of prison violence caused by the bad food quality. Literal riots have started because of Aramark’s failure to meet the bare minimum of edible food for prisons. This isn’t just run-of-the-mill raw or overcooked; incidents at Aramark-serviced prisons include rat droppings in butter and maggots in food. In New Jersey, when mold was found in the kitchen, rather than the problem being fixed, food was served cold for months. Aramark’s food in prison has been so bad that contracts have been canceled in states such as Florida in Michigan, two of the largest prison systems in the country.
Another Aramark client is Asheville School. To be clear, there have been no maggots, rat droppings, or mold in any food served at school, and our dining hall staff is very hard-working and committed. However, while we may not be receiving the kind of food that is sent to prison, the school’s contract with Aramark directly supports the company’s ability to send dangerously unhealthy food to prisons across the country. It is unrealistic to boycott the food as individuals; it is often the only food available to us. However, as a school, it is time to contemplate if we want money being spent on a company that serves food more unsanitary than any person, prisoner or otherwise, deserves ever to have to eat. It may not change Aramark’s abhorrent prison practices, but at least we would have washed our hands of the problem.