USDA releases proposed rule for professional standards for schools

Training and requirements for hiring are addressed in the latest part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The US Department of Agriculture has released professional standards for school nutrition employees, the latest development in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The proposed rule specifies training and requirements for hiring child nutrition professionals from local districts to state agencies. The public has 60 days to comment on this proposed rule.

According to the USDA, this intent of the proposed rule is “to provide consistent, national standards for school nutrition professionals and staff” and ensure that those employees are “meeting professional standards in order to adequately perform the duties and responsibilities of their positions.” These standards are applicable for both self-operated and contract-managed foodservice programs. The hiring standards are not retroactive, but apply to new hires only.

The standards are as follows:

School nutrition program directors

Who does this apply to: These standards apply to those individuals who are directly responsible for the day-to-day operations of school nutrition programs for all participating schools, or the district, under the jurisdiction of the school food authority.

Hiring standards: Beginning July 1, 2015, a new director must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The area or concentration of that degree depends on the size of the district for which the director is responsible (see below). If a director is responsible for several districts, he/she would be required to meet the standards for the total enrollment of all the students he/she oversees. No prior experience is required for this position. 

Summary of School Nutrition Program Director Proposed Professional Standards by Local Educational Agency Size

Minimum Requirements for DirectorsStudent Enrollment
2,499 or less
Student Enrollment
2,500-9,999
Student Enrollment
10,000-24,999
Student Enrollment
25,000 or more
Minimum Education Standards (required)
(new directors only)

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with academic major or concentration in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field.

OR

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with any academic major or area of concentration, and a State-recognized certificate in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, or business;

OR

Associate’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with academic major or concentration in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field; and at least one year of relevant school nutrition programs experience;

OR

High school diploma (or GED) and 5 years of relevant experience in school nutrition programs.

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with academic major or concentration in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field;

OR

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with any academic major or area of concentration, and a State-recognized certificate in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, or business;

OR

Associate’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with academic major or concentration in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field; and at least one year of relevant school nutrition programs experience.

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with academic major or concentration in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field;

OR

Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent educational experience, with any academic major or area of concentration, and a State-recognized certificate in food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer sciences, nutrition education, culinary arts, or business.

Same requirements as for 10,000-24,999
Minimum Education Standards (preferred)
(new directors only)
Directors hired without an associate’s degree are strongly encouraged to work toward attaining associate’s degree upon hiring.Directors hired without a bachelor’s degree strongly encouraged to work toward attaining bachelor’s degree upon hiring.Master’s degree, or willingness to work toward master’s degree, preferred.

At least one year of management experience, preferably in school nutrition, strongly recommended.

At least 3 credit hours at the university level in food service management plus at least 3 credit hours in nutritional sciences at time of hiring strongly preferred.

Master’s degree, or willingness to work toward master’s degree, preferred.

At least one year of management experience, preferably in school nutrition, strongly recommended.

At least 3 credit hours at the university level in food service management plus at least 3 credit hours in nutritional sciences at time of hiring strongly preferred.

Minimum Prior Training Standards
(required)
(new directors only)
At least 8 hours of food safety training is required either 3 years prior to their starting date or completed within 30 days of employee’s starting date.

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