New USDA Professional Standards Requirement for Nutrition Personnel
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released Professional Standards for school foodservice directors, managers, school nutrition staff and state agency directors which go into effect on July 1, 2015. The new set of professional standards will require professional development for all school nutrition personnel who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The USDA states that, “The standards require all personnel in the school nutrition programs to complete annual continuing education and training. These regulations are expected to result in consistent, national professional standards that strengthen the ability of school nutrition professionals and staff to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.”
In the Waukee Nutrition Department, there is a strong continuing education plan in place including mandatory online training for all employees each year, staff training sessions and certification training. All district nutrition employees are required to complete mandatory training through the Area Education Agency (AEA) each year which is counted towards meeting the USDA professional standards. Each year training sessions are also held for staff on a variety of topics including nutrition, operations, administration and communications. All hourly nutrition workers have the opportunity to become certified through a food safety program and school nutrition program which may allow them to receive pay increases. The Waukee Nutrition Department’s commitment to continuing education and training has made for an easy transition into the USDA’s new standards. These new standards increase the continuing education requirement by two hours for nutrition workers and by four hours for nutrition supervisors.
The certifications that the Waukee Nutrition Department now offers allow staff members to meet the new USDA standards. About 93 percent of the Waukee nutrition staff have become certified or are in the process of becoming certified in the School Nutrition Association Certification, and 78 percent of staff have passed the ServSafe exam for certification in food safety. The rest of the nutrition staff will have the opportunity to take the exam before the start of next school year. It is evident that offering these certifications improves the nutrition staff’s commitment to their jobs and knowledge in their field.