Most mornings, the Rev. Nonnie Holliman is awake at 3:30 a.m. to begin looking after a group that means a great deal to him—you and your family. In addition to leading Faith Tabernacle Christian Center in Syracuse, N.Y., Holliman works 12-hour shifts as a Consumer Safety Inspector at a nearby meat and poultry processing plant. In this capacity, he provides the first line of defense against diseased or adulterated food reaching store shelves.
CSI’s are in meat and poultry plants every single day that they operate. They observe plant employees, take microbiological samples, and examine plant records to make sure firms are following federal regulations and creating safe and wholesome products for people to enjoy.
“I work every day knowing that my family and I will eat the food that we inspect, and I am sure that I speak for other inspectors in saying that our work matters,” he said.
While Holliman takes his job, which he has held for over 40 years, seriously, he believes a good sense of humor has carried him through such a long career.
“Stress gives you lines on your face,” he said.
Holliman was working in a supermarket’s meat department in 1970 when he heard about FSIS. He remembers that FSIS had a robust recruitment effort at that time, and within 15 days of applying, he had the job.
Shortly after, Holliman’s sense of humor helped him gain a promotion. As part of an effort to diversify its workforce to appeal to more women, FSIS invited Holliman to apply for a promotion within the agency. Without a sophisticated computer system to identify demographic information, someone mistook his name for a woman’s. Holliman realized the error when he received the form but thought, “Why not?” After all, he, too, wanted a promotion.
Holliman still jokes about the day he arrived at his newly assigned processing plant in Boston.
“Imagine the looks on the faces of the employees there when I showed up. They didn’t know what to make of me,” he said. To accommodate what was thought to be the new female employee, the plant built a spiffy new bathroom “with a shiny new mirror.”
“We all knew that I wouldn’t be using it, but it was ready for the new female employees who started the following year,” Holliman recalled.
Read more here about the Rev. Nonnie Holliman’s reflections on how his job and food safety have changed since he joined the agency in the 1970’s. Faces of Food Safety is an initiative by FSIS to introduce Americans to the real people who work every day to keep the food in their own homes and yours safe.