Most people don’t look back on grade school lunches fondly as adults. Still, Hawkins County, Tennessee students may have better reason to hate on them than most. Hawkins County Commissioner and concerned parent Michael Harrell spoke to news station WATE about the pork roast from 2009 that students were served last week.

A worried cafeteria worker at Joseph Rogers Primary School sent Harrell this photo of the meat in question:

old meat small

He also told Harrell that the meat had been pulled from school freezers, and dated back to 2009. Joseph Rogers Primary School was the only school in the district that opted not to serve this meat to students.

Harrell said,

They go to school and that might be the only meal they get all day long. And it just…very upsets me that these kids are going to school to get that meal. And it just didn’t go over well with me when I heard that we were feeding these kids a meat that’s dated 2009.”

Harell also said that a cook at Cherokee High School told him that the meat was bad, but that an administrator told him to cover it with gravy to give it a better taste.

USDA guidelines indicate that pork roast can be frozen for four to twelve months to ensure best taste and quality. So far, no students have reported falling ill a week after having eaten this old meat.

old meat guidelines

Hawkins County Director of Schools Steve Starnes told WATE that, following this incident, they now plan to follow these USDA guidelines. We’re betting all the horror generated by local and national news coverage has something to do with it.

Starnes says they’re implementing new procedures to be sure something like this doesn’t happen again, and are also starting random school cafeteria checks going forward. He told WATE, 

We also began inventory on all of our frozen food items to make sure. We’re not only going to be incorporating the package date, but also the delivery date on our inventory items to make sure we know exactly when those items came in.

Anyone who has ever worked in a professional kitchen can tell you that health departments insist on regular inventory procedures. The self-explanatory phrase “first in, first out” is frequently involved, as is “when in doubt, throw it out.” We know school budgets are tight everywhere, but we also know we aren’t the only ones wondering why none of this ever came up before now. Thank god for camera phones.

[via WATE, Gawker]