The USDA has proposed a new rule that establishes professional standards in school nutrition programs. Now you may be thinking, so what? Why do I care? Does this rule even affect me? The answers to these questions are simple. The new rule establishes minimum education standards for new school nutrition directors as well as training requirements for current school nutrition directors, managers and staff. Reading the proposed rule in its entirety requires more time than busy professionals have to spare, so I have highlighted the things you should know about the new professional standards.
How Does This Affect You?
First, it is important to point out that if you are currently a school nutrition director you are safe and secure in your position. These standards are intended for new hires of directors in districts across the country. Essentially, this means that if you decide you want to change jobs or move districts, then you are subject to the new educational requirements.
Why Does District Size Matter?
As you are aware, school districts vary drastically in size. As the size of a school district increases so do the responsibilities, requiring more education for new school nutrition directors. Regardless of district size, if a new director has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher no previous experience is required. However, it is strongly encouraged that the nutrition department seek directors that have at least one year of food service management experience. So, if that includes yourself, lucky you! Your resume moves to the top of the pile!
What Are The Educational Standards?
By now your initial questions have probably been answered but new ones may have arisen. What district size do I or a prospective employer fall under? What is that district’s educational requirement?  To begin let’s focus on the educational standards for each district, which is depicted in the image below. In general, as the district size increases so do the educational standards increase for school nutrition directors.
Professional Standards
What Are The Training Requirements?
Educational standards are not the only thing being added with the new rule. Implementation of new training requirements for all members of the school nutrition program are included. These training requirements must be monitored and logged for each employee in your program including directors, managers, and staff.
Under the new policy each school nutrition director must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education units (CEU) in addition to the food-safety training required during the first year of employment. Program managers are also required to complete 12 CEU hours each school year. Program staff who work an average of 20 hours per week are required to complete at least 8 hours of training that is applicable to their current position. For staff members who work less than 20 hours per week, training hours are proportional to the time worked. The following table clearly outlines these requirements.
Training Requirements
How Do I Monitor All of This?
A lot of information has been thrown at you in the last few minutes, and you are probably wondering how on earth you can keep track of it all. In addition, USDA has made recordkeeping a mandatory requirement. You can accomplish this with a carefully designed spreadsheet or simple software from your software vendor. A good software module allows you to create employee profiles including educational information, and assign and track continuing-education training. At any time during the year, you should be able to see which of your employees, if any, have not received the minimum level of training required.
Change is always challenging, but we hope we can help you make the transition to this new regulation as seamless as possible. If reading this post made the proposed rule easier to digest, please share it with your friends and peers so they can benefit as well! Also, let us know what you think! Comment below with your opinion on the new professional standards.