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Professional Standards in the SNP

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Programs Sponsors

Attention: Superintendents, Food Service Directors, and Chief Business Officials

Number: SNP-17-2016

Date: October 2016

Reference: Final Rule: Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs Personnel as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296, Section 306; and U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 38-2016—Questions and Answers on the Final Rule

Supersedes: Management Bulletin SNP-02-2016

Subject: Professional Standards in the School Nutrition Programs

This Management Bulletin (MB) supersedes MB SNP-02-2016 in response to the new and revised information in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memorandum SP 38-2016: Questions and Answers on the Final Rule—Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Personnel as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). This MB also includes California-specific policies and resources to assist with implementing the hiring and training standards.

The frequently asked questions (FAQ) in SP 38-2016 are referred to as the USDA FAQs and any relevant questions are referenced by number throughout this MB. The USDA FAQs are located on the USDA School Meals Professional Standards Web page at External link opens in new window or tab..

For your convenience, the new or revised sections in this MB are identified as New/Revised and all information is organized into expandable sections when viewed on the Internet.

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 External link opens in new window or tab..

The professional standards include:
  • New/Revised: Minimum hiring standards for new SNP directors based on the local educational agency’s (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.
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:

  • Director: 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 7 and 8 for clarification.
  • Manager: 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.
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:

  1. Minimum Education Standard: The USDA regulations established minimum education standards for hiring directors in three LEAs student enrollment size categories: (1) 2,499 students or less, (2) 2,500–9,999 students, and (3) 10,000 or more students. For specific minimum requirements, refer to the Final Rule Summary Flyer located on the USDA School Meals Professional Standards Web page at External link opens in new window or tab..

New/Revised: Refer to USDA FAQs 12–14 for an explanation of the terms equivalent educational experience, related field of education, and relevant SNP experience. These terms are used in the determination of minimum education standards for hiring.

  1. 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.
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.

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.

What are the California-specific policies for hiring?

The final rule allows state agencies discretion in some policy areas. The California Department of Education (CDE) is adopting the following hiring policies to allow for operational flexibility:

  • Hiring flexibility for LEAs with less than 500 students (Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations [7 CFR], Section 210.30[b][1][i][D]): With the CDE’s approval, LEAs with less than 500 students may hire a director that has a high school diploma or equivalent credential; but less than the required three years of relevant SNP experience if this person is the best available candidate.

    • In order to request CDE approval:
      1. Complete Form ID SNP 07 Hiring Flexibility Request available in the Download Forms section in the SNP Module of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System Web site at External link opens in new window or tab..
      2. Submit the completed form to the assigned county program specialist per instructions on the form.
    • The CDE will review each request on a case-by-case basis and notify the LEA of approval or denial by e-mail within two weeks of receipt of the form.
    • It is the LEA’s responsibility to maintain documentation of the CDE’s approval for three years and have it available during the administrative review (AR).

  • Minimum education standards for new acting directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][1][iv]): New acting directors shall meet the minimum education hiring standards established in 7 CFR, Section 210.30(b)(1), only if the LEA expects them to work in the acting capacity for more than 12 months. The LEA may not appoint two acting directors consecutively for up to 12 months each if they do not meet the hiring standards. This also applies to FSMCs that have a contract with an SFA.

  • Minimum prior-training in food safety standards for new acting directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][1][iv]): New acting directors, regardless of how long they will be acting, shall 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.
What hiring standards documentation must be maintained?

New/Revised: 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 of relevant SNP experience. When a degree is not completed, 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.

Are the training standards for all school nutrition professionals?

The training standards apply to all personnel who are specifically involved in the SNPs. New/Revised: Refer to USDA FAQs 18‒51 for information on the training standards.

What are the annual minimum hours?

Each school year, SFAs must ensure that the directors, managers, and staff complete annual continuing education or training requirements.

  • In School Year (SY) 2015–16, the requirement was eight hours for the director, six hours for managers, and four hours for all other staff.
  • Beginning in SY 2016–17, the annual training requirement is 12 hours for directors, 10 hours for managers, and 6 hours for school nutrition staff who work 20 hours or more per week. Part-time employees who work less than 20 hours per week must complete 4 hours of annual training.
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 USDA Professional Standards Learning Objectives and Topics with Codes document located on the USDA Professional Standards for School Nutrition Professionals Web site at External link opens in new window or tab.. Each key area has key topics and several specific training subjects (or learning topics) with objectives for those planning or participating in training.

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 Topics with Codes is creditable. SFAs may count training in 15 minute increments.

New/Revised: 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 48.

Is there flexibility in the final rule in regard to training standards?
  • SNPs employees may count any training completed between April 1, 2015, and July 1, 2015, toward the training requirements for SY 2015–16.
  • Employees hired on January 1 or later must complete only half of the training hours specified for that school year.
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 SNPs 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][2]): SFAs may choose to demonstrate compliance with the training standards across two school years provided that some training hours are completed in each.
  • Credit for conference exhibits or product demonstrations: SNPs 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 new acting directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][3]): The new acting director shall complete annual continuing education or training only if they are serving in the acting capacity for more than 12 months.
  • Training requirements for acting or temporary staff, substitute workers, and volunteers (7 CFR, Section 210.30[e][1]): The CDE has no specific requirement for annual training hours, documentation, and recordkeeping for acting or temporary staff, substitute workers, and volunteers.
  • New/Revised: Ongoing food safety training or certification every five years for directors (7 CFR, Section 210.30[b][1][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 but it does not apply to acting directors. The CDE strongly encourages job-related food safety training for acting directors. Refer to USDA FAQ 11.
  • 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]).
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 Tracking Tool or another method that must include:

  1. Trainee’s first and last name
  2. Trainee’s professional standards position (director, manager, or staff)
  3. Title of training (indicate if exhibit or product demonstration) New/Revised
  4. Date training completed
  5. Training hours credited
  6. Key area(s) of training
  7. Key topic(s) addressed
  8. Training subjects or learning topics covered

SFAs must also maintain supporting documentation, such as the agenda and sign-in sheet or certificate of completion, for all completed training.

What training sources are available?

Training is available from many sources, including the CDE; the California Professional Nutrition Education and Training Centers at the University of California, Davis, and San Jose State University; 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.

New/Revised: Visit the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel Web page at to access all these resources.

What is the oversight for school food authorities?

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.

New/Revised: 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.

New/Revised: As specified in the AR manual, SFAs need to provide the following personnel information to the CDE staff conducting the AR: employee name, hire date, job title, core duties, employment status, time-base, employee category (director, manager, or staff), and school or site where they work.

New/Revised: 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. There will be no fiscal action. Refer to USDA FAQs 17 and 53.

Can the nonprofit school food service account or cafeteria funds be used?

The CDE encourages SFAs to use free or low-cost training resources. SFAs may use cafeteria funds for costs associated with required annual training. However, they must not use cafeteria 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).

New/Revised: When a new director (hired on or after July 1, 2015) does not meet the hiring standards, SFAs may not use cafeteria funds to pay their salary. In this situation, the LEA’s general fund account must be used to pay the salary of a new director who is actively pursuing the minimum education and other requirements outlined in the CAP to meet the hiring standards. Refer to USDA FAQ 17.

How do the regulations relate to food service management companies?

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 59.

New/Revised: SFAs must amend FSMC contracts that do not include the professional standards requirement language to ensure SFA compliance with these requirements. If the SFA or FSMC considers this amendment a material change, the contract must be resolicited with the new professional standards language to ensure the SFA complies with the professional standards requirement by the next school year. Refer to the USDA FAQ 58.

New/Revised: 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 within 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 60.

Contact Information

If you have any questions or unique circumstances regarding this subject, please contact Mandeep Punia, Nutrition Education Consultant (NEC), by phone at 916-323-6037 or by e-mail at or Lisa Melhouse, NEC, by phone at 916-323-2488 or by e-mail at or e-mail your questions to

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division| 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, January 3, 2018
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