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In the wake of George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers — and the continued demand for comprehensive and systemic change that ensued — Loyola sent a message to the community promising action. It’s created initiatives and pledged to increase diversity and racial education. But these steps alone aren’t enough to create the change necessary: it’s time to ditch Aramark.
Aramark — the company contracted by Loyola to provide dining services — has a long and ugly relationship with the prison industrial complex, a system that has and continues to disproportionately affect Black people in the U.S.
Aramark reports serving more than 380 million meals to prisoners each year and holds contracts with several states and private prisons to provide food services.
While food in Loyola dining halls may have a bug or two, the food fed to Michigan prisoners was at times maggot infested and rotten, according to a Detroit Metro Times article. Michigan eventually ended their contract with Aramark in 2015, The Detroit News reported.
Besides providing food to universities and hospitals around the country, it runs kitchens in for-profit prisons — correctional facilities run by a private company and not the government — across the country. These for-profit businesses lobby congress and donate money to get stricter and more punitive laws to increase the prison population, according to a Justice Policy Institute study.
Standing at 2.3 million incarcerated individuals according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization focusing on criminal justice reform, the U.S. already has an inflated population of prisoners. These laws made under the guise of public safety are only made to create profit for the companies who benefit from mass incarceration.
These laws also unfairly and disproportionately affect Black communities, which are already disadvantaged from decades of oppression and neglect are being locked up at rates greater than whites.
Black people make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are 40 percent of the prison population, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Black people are put in prison five times more than whites, according to the organization.
While most prisoners are denied their right to vote, those of us on the outside can vote with our dollar. Though most corporations don’t listen to our voice, they will listen to their bank accounts. By continuing the contract with Aramark, Loyola is directly supporting an oppressive system that harms the Black community it claims to care about.
How can a school focused on social justice, force its students to be served by a company that profits off of prisoners?
Real and effective change from Loyola can’t be fully achieved until it pledges to divest from the prison industrial complex.
With most students off-campus and out of the dining halls anyway, why not use this time to reevaluate? By continuing to financially enable the prison-industrial complex, Loyola is just as complicit in the mass incarceration of Black people as the prisons themselves.
By not taking the concerns of Loyola’s Black students seriously, it tells us Jesuit values at Loyola are just words and no action.