Black-Eyed Ham: Hawkins County school lunches spotted after possible reaction with cookware


HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Some Hawkins County Schools students found an interesting surprise on their plate last week.

Concerned students of Volunteer High School sent News Channel 11 images of their Wednesday, Dec. 15 Christmas Lunch provided by the school system. You can see some of them below:

Christmas lunch with a twist

In the images there appear to be dark discolorations on the meat, which Hawkins County Schools Child Nutrition director Mandy Kenner said was Classic Boneless Smoked Ham produced by Smithfield and distributed by Gordon Food Service.

Initial observation from students had the splotches pegged as mold, but when speaking with school officials another possibility arose.

“We believe the use of an aluminum/chrome-plated wire pan grate placed in the bottom of the hot holding well caused the ham to turn dark where the two touched in places,” Kenner said. “The grate was used to elevate the food to keep it from sticking, scorching or drying out during service time.”

Kenner said the food was first brought to the principal of Volunteer High, Gregory Sturgill, who then notified cafeteria staff. Once they were aware, Kenner said they began checking ham that was ready to serve for other marks.

“Seeing the discoloration along the grate lines on the ham that was returned, they immediately discontinued use of the rack,” Kenner said. “All remaining ham was examined by the cafeteria staff and no further discoloration was found.”

Later, Kenner said staff tested their theory with leftover ham. She said that ham left in the hot holding well on the same grate ended up with the same dark discoloration where the grate touched the food.

Kenner said the school system has been in contact with product vendors, who had not given a formal explanation for the phenomenon as of Dec. 17.

“In conversation with the vendor, they do concur that the discoloration from a reaction between the metal grate and the ham is very likely,” Kenner said. ” We will continue to work with vendors and manufacturers to ensure we are following their preparation instructions to produce nutritious meals for our student that are of the upmost quality.”

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