Jumping into USDA Professional Standards

If there’s something we quickly learn when dealing with students it’s that some learn with the carrot, and others… need some deterrence.

Whether it’s you or those within your program that find more incentive in the stick rather than the USDA’s carrot of grants and funds for professional standards, we’ve got you covered.




How USDA’s Administrative Review Process Affects You

Unfortunately for most, the big deterrent to lazy standards all across their program is the threat of sanctions or disciplinary action once the record audit is prompted by the administrative review process.

If you’re running on this disincentive, and find your program is as well, then some changes must be made.

With updated legislation came new regulations adjusting not just USDA professional standards, but also the Administrative Review process.

One of the big changes made was a timeline change from reviews being conducted every 5 years, to every 3 years. On the one hand, this means our programs may not necessarily have to keep as many records on hand for as long.

On the other, it means not just an increased frequency in reviews, but also more line-by-line scrutiny per not just transactions in your cafeterias, but also of the entirety of how your program is operated by those within it.

USDA’s Administrative Review process will require you to present documentation showing that all those in your nutrition program have complied with the new standards set for them. However, it’s not just minimum educational requirements, but also training hour requirements that are assessed.

The motivation must be the idea of a better program, not just of compliance with rules. 

How all program staff has been equipped to do the job at hand will always reflect in the performance of the nutritional program or state food agency.

Although overall performance of child nutrition programs is heavily impacted by training hours, experience, and education that we must be tracked- we tend to undermine this as an incentive to stay on top of professional standards.

Effects of Noncompliance with USDA Professional Standards in Your Program

Consider the disadvantages of not prioritizing Professional Standards in child nutrition past just being chewed out by the next in line, or being exposed by disclosed administrative review summations at the end of your audits.

Although no fiscal action is associated with noncompliance, state agencies are required to provide the necessary support to ensure that goals are being met, and this is passed down to district directors, and then managers, and they in term continue to pass it along to the staff that run the essential day-to-day operations.

This hierarchy is essential. The dissemination of accountability, motivation, and enthusiasm to meet goals along with the tools to do so must be in continuous motion from one director, manager, or staff member, to the next.

 It’s creating the very effect of what I like to call “trickle down excellence”.

Overseeing a program or staff that is out of compliance in any way is a direct reflection of you and your ability to lead and manage.

Bottom line. It isn’t pretty, but it’s true.

It doesn’t matter if there’s someone above or below you making it rough for you somehow to get your program in line- this job is not about politics, it’s about children.

When you make that your priority you will find yourself working with anyone and doing anything to get them to cooperate.

The goal is to achieve, not compete with those in your program. 

So if you find your program or employees are falling behind, or you yourself are falling behind consistently, your program may not face financial sanctions, but your personal pocketbook might if you aren’t meeting the requirements of your career.

Further than just being in hot water yourself, you also risk a bigger loss.

You risk losing valuable people in your program when you don’t empower them with order and a set fluid system to take accountability and meet their training goals.

This is because valuable employees thrive under order (not to be confused with micromanaging), not chaos.

So you will either bring good people down to the standards set in place now, or they will leave your program altogether.

Particularly if you don’t give them a voice to improve conditions you can acknowledge your program is lacking in; or give them the ability to implement the training they attended for the sole purpose of helping a nutritional program excel.

If you missed Part 1, check it out here. Come back for Part 3 to hear just how you can manage an organized tracking system and motivate employees to meet goals!

If you’d like to ask me any questions, or learn more, I hosted a Live Webbinar. Learn in an easy to understand and concise way, just how to understand, meet, and track professional standards in your nutritional program.

For more solutions to your concerns and to ease the process of tracking your state or district, check out Team Work.

Don’t forget to comment below any questions or anecdotes you have for our readers about how the updated professional standards impacted your program, yourself, or even just your opinion on them!