La Jolla Country Day School responds to complaint about ‘African Diaspora’ menu

The La Jolla Country Day School lunch menu for Feb. 23, designed to commemorate Black History Month.
The La Jolla Country Day School lunch menu for Feb. 23, designed to commemorate Black History Month, contained some items that have been associated with racial stereotypes.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

A ‘concerned and hurt student’ considers the inclusion of collard greens, fried chicken and watermelon to be ‘highly offensive and disgraceful.’


Shortly after Martin Luther King III spoke Feb. 23 at La Jolla Country Day School about gratitude and racism, the school’s food provider, Sage Dining Services, offered a lunch designed to present a “Taste of the African Diaspora.”

The son of the late civil-rights leader visits La Jolla Country Day School to help San Diego organization Say It Now encourage teenagers to express gratitude to those who have helped them.

A person who signed an email “a concerned and hurt student” contacted the La Jolla Light after the lunch, pointing out that the menu included “stereotypical African dishes” such as collard greens, fried chicken tenders and watermelon. Those items have long been associated with racial stereotypes.

The email said the student and others were “horrified” and “considered this to be highly offensive and disgraceful.”

Tiffany Truong, director of marketing and communications for La Jolla Country Day, responded that members of the school administration with whom she consulted hadn’t heard any complaints, and she added that “the Taste of the African Diaspora lunch was one of the highly lauded lunches by our community in honor of Black History Month.”

The menu, which also included West African vegetable stew, Creole shrimp, Jamaican jerk tofu, African pilau masala rice and more, was “thoughtfully crafted by our educators and the Black Student Union,” she said.

“We wanted to create a conscious experience that highlights the importance of food in the lives of people of African American and Black descent,” Truong said.

She said the theme was inspired by an event called “Taste the Diaspora” in Detroit.

Each dish was accompanied by a description of its history, and books were placed around the cafeteria for people to read about African American and Black culture, Truong said.

“Some students were curious about the menu, which sparked meaningful conversations about food and culture,” she said.

She encouraged any students who have concerns about the menu to contact school administrators directly.

The Light requested a comment from Country Day School Head of School Gary Krahn, but none was provided.

Items on similar menus have caused schools elsewhere to issue apologies, including in the past month.

On Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, students at Nyack Middle School in New York were scheduled to be served cheesesteaks, broccoli and fruit for lunch, but the meal was changed to chicken, waffles and watermelon.

In a letter to parents, school Principal David Johnson blamed the food vendor, Aramark, for serving what he called an “inexcusably insensitive” meal. Aramark soon apologized.

In February 2015, the president of Wright State University in Ohio and its dining vendor, Chartwells Higher Education Dining Service, apologized for a Black History Month menu that featured fried chicken and collard greens. ◆