Hawkins County school dietitian suspended for old pork roast served to students

ROGERSVILLE (WATE) – The Hawkins County Schools nutrition manager has been suspended for three days without pay Thursday night after six-year-old pork roast was served to students across the county last month.

The suspension was announced at Thursday night’s school board meeting. Parents and school board members met to discuss the old meat and whether someone should be held accountable.

Cafeteria manager Linda Moore told the board, “Cafeteria workers make mistakes, and this was a mistake.”

A note will also be placed in nutrition manager Mandy Kenner’s personnel file that if there is another incident of bad judgment, she will be terminated.

Parents say it’s not enough.

“Very disappointed in the way the school board is handling the situation, it’s being swept under the rug. To me a three day suspension of the director of nutrition is not enough considering that this could’ve made hundreds of children very, very ill,” said parent Patricia Gray.

Sandra Lewis says her son ate the meat and the punishment is only a slap on the wrist.

“Whenever he said the taste was indescribable, you know you have to think, what has my child eaten? I can’t imagine what he went through to eat it. He said he only ate maybe two good bites out of it, and after that he said he couldn’t eat any more,” said Lewis.

Director of Schools Steve Starnes says he looks at several things when he several things when making disciplinary actions.

“We look at the past work history of the employee, has there been disciplinary actions in the past. There hadn’t been any in this case. We weight all the different policies procedures, regulations violate,” said Starnes.

The suspension takes effect Friday.

Last Thursday, the board met for a special called meeting to discuss how something like this could happen, and why old pork was in school freezers throughout the county.

At that point, Starnes said they were still taking inventory of the frozen food items and working to determine what actually happened.

Previous story: ‘There’s no excuse for this,’ Hawkins County BOE discuss years-old meat served to students

Brenda Hutson has a daughter in the Hawkins County school system and she says she’s really concerned about the pork roast, some dating back to 2009, that was served to children.

“I’m just in total amazement we would have meat in our freezers that long, which tells me there hasn’t been any type of inventory process at all,” she said. “Everything should be inventoried. We should know when it came into our schools and when it leaves.”

Previous story: Hawkins County Schools launch new procedures after serving years-old meat to students

“We tried to determine how that happened, when the meat hit the freezers, how long it’s been there in our last meeting. And our superintendent only has to assume that yes, the meat has been in our freezer since 2009. Not every school freezer. A certain number of freezers held this meat,” said school board chairman Chris Christian.

Both Hutson and Christian agree this incident shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

“I’d like to know who’s going to be held accountable. I really feel like somebody needs to be held accountable in some way,” said Hutson.

“It’s not so much the safety issue. It’s the quality and nutritional value that we’re serving our children. And that’s just as important to me as the safety. Let’s face it, some of our children, this is the only meal they get,” said Christian. “It’s unthinkable in today’s society. We need to be more prepared and do our jobs better.”

Christian didn’t want to comment on prior inventory procedures, but said Starnes has now put in place an inventory system in which there will no frozen meat over a year old will be served. Starnes hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

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