ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. - Hawkins County leaders say cafeteria workers served meat dating to 2009 at several schools last week.
A commissioner and parent alerted the district, after a cafeteria worker sent him a photo of pork roast they used for school meals. The meat had been frozen and then was thawed for meal preparation.
Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell said the photo was taken at Joseph Rogers Primary School, although the staff there decided not to serve that meat. It was, however, served at other schools.
"These high-schoolers - they understand if they see something they are not going to like they don't eat it. But when you get to these kindergartners, first- and second-graders, do they really know if the meat is bad or not?" said Herrell.
He said that Cherokee Comprehensive High School served the pork after a debate.
"The actual woman making a stink about it said it smelled so bad they made gravy to put over the meat to give it a smell and give it a better taste," said Herrell.
Director of Schools Steve Starnes said he learned about the issue April 23 and ultimately, the meat passed their tests.
"There were some meats with dates of 2009, 10, 11 in the freezer. Our child nutrition supervisor had the cafeteria managers look at the meat, do the tests, and see if it was OK. The decision was made to serve it," said Starnes.
So far there are no reported illnesses tied to the meat.
The next day, the school board took a new plan of action. They put in effect USDA Guidelines when it comes to handling the food they use for school lunches.
"As material comes in we will be serving it in that time period and we will have a strict adherence to all USDA guidelines, meaning 12 months on meat," said Starnes.
USDA guidelines do not recommend keeping meat in a freezer longer than four to 12 months.
The schools will also have cafeteria workers go through the inventory and clean out expired stock. They are unsure at this point how much food that will affect.
"We want parents to feel safe that when they are sending their children to school, we are providing them with a quality food service program," said Starnes.
The district's priority right now is correcting the problem. It's not looking to punish anyone.
But Herrell thinks someone should be held responsible.
"We have a lot of kids that go to school, and that might be the only meal they get all day long. And it upsets me that these kids are going to school to get that meal," said Herrell.
On Thursday night there will be an open meeting where parents have a chance to learn about the new guidelines the school will follow. That takes place at 6 p.m. at the Charles A. Fuller Boardroom in Rogersville.