If the Hawkins County school system in Tennessee had kept its meat in the freezer much longer, the meat might have been older than some of the students it was served to. The county says it's changing its procedures after students at many schools were served pork roast that turned out to have been frozen in 2009, ABC News reports. The US Department of Agriculture says it's safe to keep frozen meat almost indefinitely—though taste and quality will go downhill after four months to a year. According to WJHL, some cafeteria workers say the elderly lunch meat served up to students smelled so bad it stunk up entire schools, and cooks had to slather the meat in gravy to disguise its age. County officials say they're now carrying out an inventory to make sure no old meat is still lurking in school freezers.
County Commissioner Michael Herrell went to officials after a cafeteria cook sent him a picture of the meat served on April 22, WATE reports. Herrell says the poor-quality meat is especially upsetting because it's a poor area where many kids get free or discounted meals and some rely on cafeteria food for nutrition. "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," he tells WATE. "It just didn't go over well with me when I heard we were feeding these kids meat that's dated 2009." He tells ABC he worries that younger kids wouldn't be able to tell if there was something wrong with the food they were served. No illnesses have been reported related to the incident. (You won't find any meat, frozen or otherwise, at America's first all-vegan school.)