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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established minimum professional standard requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. The goal of these standards is to ensure that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training and tools needed to operate School Nutrition Programs (SNP) successfully. There are hiring standards for new food service directors and annual training requirements for all school nutrition employees.
USDA School Meals Professional Standards - Review Final Rule, USDA Learning Objectives, Learning Codes, Training Topics, Database of Training Opportunities, Guidance materials including FAQs and USDA Training Tracker Tool.
New Director Hiring Requirements
New Directors, hired on or after July 1, 2015, are required to meet minimum education and work experience standards.
Some exceptions may be granted. Contact your assigned consultant or Patti Harding at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with hiring standards, new directors must acquire 8 hours of food safety training within 5 years prior or within 30 days of their start date.
|Education and Experience level acceptable||Enrollment of
2499 or less
10,000 or more
|Master's degree in specific area of study*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bachelor's degree in specific area of study*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Bachelor's degree in any academic major and relevant school food service (SFS)experience||Yes, with 1 year SFS experience||Yes, with 2 years SFS experience||Yes, with 5 years SFS experience|
|Bachelor's degree in any academic major and relevant food service (FS)experience||Yes, with 1 year FS experience||Yes, with 2 years SFS experience||No|
|Associate's degree in specific area of study* and relevant school food service (SFS) experience||Yes, with 1 year SFS experience||Yes, with 2 years SFS experience||No|
|Associate's degree in specific area of study* and relevant food service (FS) experience||Yes, with 1 year FS experience||No||No|
|High School diploma (or GED) and at least 3 years of relevant food service experience||Yes||No||No|
*Acceptable majors/areas of concentration for a Master’s or Bachelor degree include food and nutrition, food service management, dietetics, family and consumer science, nutrition education, culinary arts, business, or a related field.
Annual Training Requirements
USDA established minimum annual training requirements for all school nutrition directors, managers, and all staff involved in any aspect of the nutrition program.
Training must be specific to duties performed.
SFA must track and document annual training for all school nutrition employees. Maintain supporting documentation such as agenda, sign-in sheet or certificate of completion.
- Food Service Directors 12 hours
- Managers: 10 hours
- Full-Time Staff (> 20 hours per week): 6 hours
- Part-Time Staff (< 20 hours per week): 4 hours
Resources and Tools
Sample Director Job Description - Local duties and responsibilities for directors vary; training must be specific to duties performed.
USDA Guide to Professional Standards for School Nutrition Programs
Education Events - Schools - Check out upcoming Iowa training and webinars
Learning Tools - Schools - Search recorded Iowa webinars by topic
USDA Professional Standards Training Database - Search for training that meets your learning needs
Child Nutrition Sharing Site - One-stop-shop for all operation-related Child Nutrition Program (CNP) resources
Iowa School Nutrition Training Modules - Free interactive web-based training - each provide a certificate of completion
School Nutrition Association (SNA) USDA Professional Standards Hub - Resources to assist with professional standards
Training Trackers: SFA may use either web-based USDA Tool or alternate tracking method such as the state agency templates below. Include employee name, position, title of training, key area, date completed, and creditable training hours.
- Iowa SFA Tracker Tool - MS Word
- Iowa SFA Tracker Tool - MS Excel
- Iowa Individual Tracker Tool
Professional Standards Webinar Recording - A review of professional standards training requirements.
USDA Menu Planner for School Meals - A comprehensive guide recommended for school nutrition professionals; particularly helpful for new directors.