Keeping a school kitchen running smoothly and safely takes attention to details, practice and training. Some training is required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and Department of Health regulations; other training can help you tap into best practices for growing your program and your career. Thankfully, there is a wealth of training material available from state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and professional associations to meet the requirements as well as support professional growth. This blog post merely scratches the surface and serves as a starting point.
USDA Required Training
The USDA has minimum education standards for new school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for anyone working in school nutrition. The standards aim to ensure school nutrition professionals are equipped to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals. Requirements:
Note: If hired January 1 or later, an employee must only complete half of the above required training hours.
Food Safety / Protection Training
In addition to USDA-required operational training, food safety training/certification is needed to help prevent foodborne contamination and illnesses in schools. Requirements may vary by state, so check with your state's Health Department for minimum standards. In Minnesota, for example, at least one person in each school kitchen must be a Certified Food Protection Manager, or one CFPM per 10 satellite feeding sites. The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification teaches and confirms knowledge of food safety protocols, and is accepted in all 50 states.
NutriStudents K-12 sister company, CKC Good Food, will be hosting a ServSafe training class and exam on December 23, 2019, at our headquarters just south of downtown Saint Paul. More information and registration details are available here. Registration deadline is Monday, November 18.
The USDA Office of Food Safety also provides general training resources and recommendations to create food-safe schools.
Beyond required training, there are many training resources to expand your knowledge and help you run your program more efficiently:
Those who've chosen a career in school nutrition may want to pursue a Certificate in School Nutrition, or the School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) credential, through the School Nutrition Association. The SNA has charted a clear path for professional development through Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 of the Certificate in School Nutrition.
The SNS Credential is a mark of excellence and achievement that reflects what it takes to manage school nutrition programs in today’s challenging climate. The SNS Credentialing Exam evaluates candidates’ knowledge and skills required to perform specific job activities related to managing or directing school nutrition programs.
If all these options are overwhelming, start with a search of the USDA's comprehensive database of training programs and resources from federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities and other sources.
As you amass your training, track your progress using the USDA's Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool.