Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services said Thursday that the USDA has proposed the establishment of professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals.
The new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious meals, she said.
Though Thornton said many school nutrition professionals already complete annual training that is similar to what the USDA is recommending, the standards will be new for some.
The rules are being developed as part of the Health Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a program of mandatory education, training, and certification for all school nutrition directors responsible for the management of a school food authority.
"These proposed standards will ensure that all school nutrition professionals meet the same national requirements as they prepare healthy meals served in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs," Thornton explained.
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The professional standards proposed by USDA will focus on training opportunities and strengthen the school nutrition profession.
This proposal would:
• Create minimum hiring standards for school food authority directors based on a school district's size;
• Establish minimum hiring standards for State directors of school nutrition and State distributing agencies; and
• Require minimum annual training for all new and current school nutrition professionals.
Thornton said USDA solicited input from state agencies, school districts, and professional associations in developing the proposed standards. USDA FNS also held listening sessions in March, 2012, to discuss the new standards, and presented information about the plan at the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in July 2012 and July 2013.
"USDA is committed to working closely with school nutrition directors, managers and staff to meet the proposed requirements once they are in place," Thornton noted. "Our Food and Nutrition Service will continue collaborating with partners to identify free and low-cost training at locations that are convenient and easily accessible. FNS will also be working with our partners to develop an easily accessible national database that will list available trainings by State."
Click here to view the proposed USDA FNS school lunch professional training and hiring standards.