Black History Month controversy in the dining commons

By Brittany Rosso

Source: Silver Shine on Creative Commons

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.-After hearing students express their feelings about the food that was offered in the Russell J. Salvatore Dining Commons by Metz to celebrate Black History Month, I wanted to investigate the menu and the motives behind the decision-making from Metz’s point of view.

 Metz held a southern-cuisine styled lunch to honor and celebrate African American dishes and culture, specifically for Black History Month. Dishes such as fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread and mac n’ cheese were offered as Motown music was played throughout the hall. 

So you’re probably wondering … how is this problematic? Or, perhaps, is it even a problem at all? Recent uprisings at other universities are what we can look towards to prove the controversy. 

Several universities also offered similar menu changes to honor Black History Month, both this year and in years past. Most recently, New York University and Loyola University added foods to their menu in the month of February including fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, collard greens, watermelon, watermelon flavored water, black eyed peas salad and Kool-Aid. Both universities received backlash for their decisions, with many students and people viewing it as “stereotypical food.”Although these changes received an outburst of backlash, Niagara University took a different approach.

The goal of Metz by providing southern cuisine was to celebrate the African American culture and bring authenticity to the meals.

 “We want to gather people together around food in a positive way,” Operations Manager Joseph Evans said. 

Evans later added, “As a person of color I think it is an awesome thing, that I have this awesome food rooted in culture … I think to know where you’re going, you got to know where you’re coming from. I think it’s okay for every generation to evolve and kind of define themselves.”

Metz prides itself on its efforts to not only serve a diverse menu to satisfy as many students as possible, but to provide authentic, quality dishes. It works to appeal to all cultures and preferences on the daily menu, creating meals and providing options for students of all backgrounds.

While some feel this pushes boundaries of cultural appropriation and stereotyping, others feel that it is not a problem at all.

“We understand we can’t satisfy everyone but we try as hard as we can, and we always want an open format on how we can do better.” said Evans, adding, “We do these things to break up the monogamy. The more diversity that we can put in our food – that’s really our goal. Were passionate about food we want to bring people together in a positive way and focus around food.”

Metz has defined their efforts in this incident to culturally integrate students through the food they serve.

I feel that as a student it is important to highlight these efforts and to develop a true understanding towards the decisions made behind cultural-specific menus and the reasons behind them for all holidays, not just for Black History Month. I am proud to be a student of a university which recognizes all cultures and truly cares about the authenticity of what they serve. I feel that this is a crucial point of view many students and faculty are missing, not only at Niagara University, but at many schools and universities across the country.

The controversy of the topic will remain for many years to come. Meanwhile at Niagara University, our dining services and vendors work to go above and beyond, and truly reach students on a personal level, touching their culture, history and background.


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