Professional Standards in the SNP
Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program Sponsors
Attention: Superintendents, Food Service Directors, Chief Business Officials, and Personnel Officers
Date: July 2020
Reference: Final Rule: Hiring Flexibility under Professional Standards; Final Rule: Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Personnel as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, Public Law 111-296, Section 306; and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memorandum SP 05-2020—Questions and Answers (Q&A) Regarding Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Program (SNP) Personnel
Supersedes: Management Bulletin (MB) SNP-10-2019
Subject: Professional Standards in the SNPs
This MB supersedes MB SNP-10-2019 and provides SNP sponsors current guidance regarding implementing the professional standards in California according to the final rule entitled Hiring Flexibility Under Professional Standards and includes updated information from the USDA Policy Memorandum SP 05-2020 Q&A Regarding Professional Standards for State and Local SNP Personnel. The final rule was published by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on March 1, 2019, and was effective April 30, 2019. The new flexibilities are expected to expand the pool of candidates qualified for hiring by small local educational agencies (LEA) with 2,499 or fewer students.
You can view this final rule on the National Archives Federal Register Hiring Flexibility web page at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/03/01/2019-03524/hiring-flexibility-under-professional-standards.
For your convenience, all information is organized into expandable sections when viewed on the internet. The frequently asked questions (FAQ) in policy memo SP 05-2020 are referred to as the USDA FAQs and any relevant questions are referenced by number throughout this MB. The USDA FAQs are on the USDA Q&A Regarding Professional Standards for State and Local SNP Personnel web page at https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/questions-answers-regarding-professional-standards-state-and-local-school-nutrition.
1. When did professional standards become effective and what do they include?
The USDA established minimum professional standards for personnel who manage and operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). These standards address Section 306 of the HHFKA by ensuring that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools needed to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals. The professional standards for personnel in SNPs became effective July 1, 2015. To review the final rule, please visit the Federal Register Professional Standards for SNPs web page at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/03/02/2015-04234/professional-standards-for-state-and-local-school-nutrition-programs-personnel-as-required-by-the.
The professional standards include:
- Minimum hiring standards for new SNP directors based on the LEA size by student enrollment
- Minimum hiring standards for new state directors of the SNPs and food distributing agencies
- Minimum annual training for all new and current SNP professionals
The professional standards apply to all personnel who manage or work in the NSLP and the SBP in public, charter, and private schools; residential child care institutions; and food service management companies (FSMC) that have a contract with SNPs.
2. What are the definitions for directors, managers, and staff?
In the final rule, SNP employees are defined as director, manager, or staff. To determine which employee category applies, focus on the individual’s role, rather than the title as follows:
Manages day-to-day operations of the school food service for all participating schools under the jurisdiction of the school food authority (SFA). Refer to USDA FAQs 5 and 6 for clarification.
Manages day-to-day operations of the school food service for one or more participating schools, but not all of the participating schools under the jurisdiction of the SFA.
- Staff: Has a nonmanagerial role in day-to-day operations of the school food service.
3. What are the hiring standards for directors?
The hiring standards apply to new directors hired on or after July 1, 2015, and consist of the following two components:
- Minimum Education Standard:
The USDA regulations established minimum education standards for hiring directors in three LEA enrollment size categories: (1) 2,499 students or less, (2) 2,500–9,999 students, and (3) 10,000 or more students. Refer to the revised information on the California Department of Education (CDE) California Requirements for Hiring a New Director web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/pd-pshiring.asp.
Refer to USDA FAQs 10–13 for an explanation of the following terms: equivalent educational experience, related field of education, relevant SNP experience, and relevant food service experience. These terms are used in the determination of minimum education standards for hiring.
- Minimum prior-training in Food Safety Standard: All new directors for all LEA sizes must complete at least eight hours of food safety training either within five years prior to their start date or within 30 days after their start date.
4. Is grandfathering allowable?
Federal regulations allow existing directors, hired before July 1, 2015, to grandfather into their current positions. The USDA does not require existing directors to meet the new hiring standards in their existing position or if they move to another position within the same or smaller LEA size category. However, if an existing director transfers to a larger LEA size category, then the director must meet the hiring standards for that LEA size category.
5. Is there flexibility in the final rule in regard to hiring requirements?
The LEA may hire under prior employment requirements if they advertised the vacant director’s position prior to July 1, 2015.
Directors hired on or after April 30, 2019, may use the flexibilities provided by the Hiring Flexibility Under Professional Standards rule.
The Final Rule: Hiring Flexibility under Professional Standards allows the state agencies to consider applicants for State Director of SNPs with either a bachelor's or an advanced degree in specified fields.
The final rule on hiring flexibilities gives state agencies discretion to allow specific flexibilities for LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students when hiring a new director. See the section entitled What are the California-specific policies for hiring? for more information.
6. What are the California-specific policies for hiring?
The regulations allow state agencies discretion in some policy areas. The CDE has adopted the following hiring policies to allow for operational flexibility:
CDE’s hiring flexibility policies for LEAs (Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations [7 CFR], Section 210.30[b][i][A-D]):
- LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students may hire a new director who has relevant food service experience, rather than SNP experience.
- LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students may hire a new director with paid or unpaid relevant food service experience. Unpaid experience must be documented and considered on a case-by-case basis by the LEA. Prior approval by the CDE is not required.
- LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students may use the nonprofit school food service account, also known as the cafeteria fund, to pay the salary of an SNP director who does not meet the hiring standards, so long as the SFA is complying with a CDE-approved corrective action plan to ensure the director will meet the requirements.
- Hiring flexibility for LEAs with less than 500 students (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][i][D]): LEAs with less than 500 students have the option to hire a director who has less than the required years of food service experience, provided the applicant has the minimum education specified in the hiring standards for the LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students. Prior approval from CDE is not required; however, LEAs must keep documentation supporting compliance with the hiring standards until the next administrative review (AR) when the CDE staff will check documentation for consistency with hiring standards.
- LEAs are encouraged to use the optional Director’s Qualifications Assessment Tool available in the Download Forms section in the SNP Module of the CDE Child Nutrition Information and Payment System website at https://www.cnips.ca.gov. This tool will help the LEAs to organize information for the AR.
Minimum prior training in food safety standards for new acting directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][iv]): New acting directors, regardless of how long they will be acting, must meet the minimum prior-training standard of completing eight hours of food safety training within five years prior to their start date or within 30 days after the start date.
7. What hiring standards documentation must be maintained?
The director must maintain documentation of meeting all of the hiring standards for review during the AR. Acceptable documents for minimum education standards include a degree or diploma to validate the education level completed and a resume to validate length and type of relevant experience. When a degree is incomplete, college transcripts are acceptable documentation to validate equivalent educational experience. Documentation of prior food safety training may be a certificate of completion of training or sign-in sheet that shows the date of training and a training agenda that includes the training title, topic(s) covered, and the instruction time.
LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students may consider documented unpaid food service work as relevant experience. A letter stating the nature and timeframe of the volunteer work completed is acceptable documentation.
8. Do the training standards apply to all school nutrition professionals?
The training standards apply to all personnel who are specifically involved in the SNPs. Refer to USDA FAQs 21‒49 for information on the training standards.
9. What are the requirements for training?
Each school year, SFAs must ensure that the directors, managers, and staff complete annual continuing education or training requirements.
The annual training requirement is:
- 12 hours for directors
- 10 hours for managers
- 6 hours for school nutrition staff who work 20 hours or more per week
- 4 hours for part-time employees who work less than 20 hours per week
10. What training formats and topics are allowable?
SFAs may use a variety of training formats, such as live or prerecorded webinars, online classes, face-to-face training, conference calls, staff in-service days, staff meetings, California School Nutrition Association (CSNA) chapter meetings, and conferences.
Training topics must be job-related, such as free and reduced-price meal eligibility; application, certification, and verification procedures; meal counting and claiming procedures; identification of reimbursable meals at the point of service; nutrition; health and food safety standards; use of USDA Foods; and inventory rotation and control.
The training content should align with the topics listed under the key areas in the Learning Objectives and Training Topics web documents available on the USDA Professional Standards web page at https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/professional-standards.
11. How are training hours credited?
The time spent on opening remarks, introductions, lunch, breaks, networking, advocacy training, or a motivational presentation does not count toward annual training. Only the instruction and discussion time devoted to topics that align with the Professional Standards Learning Objectives and Training Topics is creditable. These web documents are available on the USDA Professional Standards web page at https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/professional-standards. SFAs may count training in 15 minute increments.
The director or manager who presents a training session to staff can claim credit for the training delivery time, but not the time spent on preparing for the training. If the director presents the same training class or program multiple times in a school year, this counts as one training activity. If each training session offered addresses a different aspect of a single topic, those sessions could be considered different training classes. For more information, refer to USDA FAQ 47.
12. Is there flexibility in the final rule in regard to training standards?
Employees hired on January 1 or later in the year must complete only half of the training hours specified for that school year.
13. What are the California-specific policies for training?
The USDA gives state agencies flexibility to define expectations in areas where the final rule allows discretion. To provide flexibility and ensure that SNP personnel have the job-related training they need, the CDE has adopted the following policies:
- May meet the federal training standard requirement across two school years (7 CFR, Section 210.30[e]): SFAs may choose to demonstrate compliance with the training standards across two school years, provided that some training hours are completed in each school year.
- Credit for conference exhibits or product demonstrations: SNP employees may earn up to two of the annual training hours by attending conference exhibits on job-related topics or observing product demonstrations.
- Annual training requirements for acting directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b]): Acting directors are required to complete annual training requirements.
- Training requirements for acting or temporary staff, substitute workers, and volunteers (7 CFR, Section 210.30[e]): The CDE has no specific requirement for annual training hours, documentation, and recordkeeping for acting or temporary staff, substitute workers, and volunteers.
- Ongoing food safety training or certification every five years for directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][v]): All new directors shall either maintain the food safety certification or complete eight hours of food safety training every five years while employed in the SNP. In California, this requirement also applies to grandfathered directors. Refer to USDA FAQ 9.
- Ongoing food safety training for staff who handle food: The CDE strongly encourages SFAs to provide job-related food safety training to all employees who handle food, including acting, temporary, or substitute workers and volunteers.
Please note that the following food safety policies remain in effect in California:
- At least one employee at each food facility or site must be food safety certified. The individual who is certified is at the discretion of the SFA (California Health and Safety Code, Section 113947.1).
- SFAs must develop a written food safety program based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points principles, which applies to any facility or part of a facility where food is stored, prepared, or served (7 CFR, Section 210.13[c]).
14. What are the requirements for training recordkeeping and documentation?
SFA directors must keep a record of the training that employees complete to meet the annual training requirements. They may either use the USDA Professional Standards Training Tracker Tool or another method that must capture the following information:
- Trainee’s first and last name
- Job category (director, manager, full-time staff or part-time staff)
- Training title
- Date training completed
- Credited training hours
- Professional standards Learning Objective (LO) code
(Note: Key area and training topic are optional as they can be inferred from the LO code.)
SFAs must also maintain supporting documentation. Acceptable backup documentation for completed trainings and planned or scheduled training may include the following:
- Certificates of completion
- Training sign-in sheets and training agenda
- Training handouts and notes
- Registration for planned or scheduled training
15. What training resources are available?
Training is available from many sources, including the CDE, the USDA, the Institute of Child Nutrition; and professional organizations, such as the national School Nutrition Association and the CSNA. Directors may also develop training for their staff or attend training from another SFA.
Visit the CDE Professional Standards web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/pd-ps.asp to access all these resources in a user-friendly tab format.
16. What is the oversight for SFAs?
According to 7 CFR, Section 210.30(g), each school year the director must sign and date a self-certified statement that: (1) the director meets the hiring standards, and (2) each employee, including the director, has completed the applicable training requirements.
SFAs must save all documentation and certification for the school years that coincide with the time period specified for their next AR.
During the AR, as part of the general area of review, the CDE will examine the SFA’s records that document completion of applicable hiring and training requirements, including food safety training or certification.
SFAs will need to provide the CDE staff conducting the AR with an accurate list of employees from sites selected for the AR plus the central kitchen (if it exists) and the administrative staff involved in the SNP operations. The list should include employee name, date hired, title or position, core duties, employment status, time base, professional standards employee category (director, manager, or staff), and school or site where they work.
In the event of noncompliance, the CDE staff will provide technical assistance and work with the SFA on an acceptable corrective action plan (CAP). The CDE will consult with the USDA to determine on a case-by-case basis a reasonable timeline for compliance with the hiring standards. Refer to USDA FAQs 19, 50-52.
17. Can the nonprofit school food service account be used?
The CDE encourages SFAs to use free or low-cost training resources. SFAs may use nonprofit school food service account funds for costs associated with required annual training. However, they must not use nonprofit school food service account funds to pay for the cost of an employee to earn college credits to meet the director hiring requirements under 7 CFR, Section 210.30(b)(1).
When a new director (hired on or after July 1, 2015) of an LEA with 2,500 or more students does not meet the hiring standards, they may not use nonprofit school food service account funds to pay the director’s salary. In this situation, the LEA’s general fund account may be used to pay the salary as long as they are actively implementing a CDE approved CAP to meet the minimum hiring standards.
The final rule on hiring flexibility allows LEAs with 2,499 or fewer students to use their nonprofit school food service account funds to pay the salary of a director hired on or after April 30, 2019, who does not meet the hiring standards as long as they are actively implementing a CDE-approved CAP to comply with the hiring standards. In addition, if the LEA is complying with this plan, the director could be hired as permanent staff, rather than as interim or acting staff. Refer to USDA FAQ 17,19, and the final rule on hiring flexibility.
18. How do the regulations relate to FSMCs?
The final rule requires FSMCs that contract with SFAs to comply with the professional standards. SFAs must ensure that FSMC employees providing services for the school meal programs meet the hiring and training standards. To verify this, the SFA must require FSMCs to provide documentation showing the training hours and topics the FSMC employees complete in each school year. The FSMC staff must track their annual training hours. Refer to USDA FAQ 54.
Contracts that do not include language to ensure SFA compliance with professional standards will need to be amended to include additional language to reflect compliance with these requirements. Refer to the USDA FAQ 53.
When an SFA contracts with an FSMC, the SFA maintains oversight and responsibility for managing the school meal programs. The role of program director remains with the SFA; it cannot be with an employee of the FSMC. The SFA CDE permanent agreement names the individual considered the director or contact. This is the person (or any other designated staff who fulfills those duties), who must meet the hiring standards for new directors. In some cases, depending on their duties, both the SFA contact and FSMC employee must meet the hiring and training standards for program director. Refer to the USDA FAQ 55.
If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the Education Nutrition and Policy Unit by phone at 916-445-9127 or by email at HHFKA@cde.ca.gov.