USDA Announces Grants to Support Updated Professional Standards in School Nutrition Programs
Release No.
FNS 0002-15
Contact
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 27, 2015 – Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced the availability of up to $4 million in funding for states to support implementation of new national professional standards for all school nutrition employees who manage and operate the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP).  The new standards, also announced  today, through the final Professional Standards rule, are a key provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA).  

"Each and every school day, thousands of compassionate and hard working women and men devote themselves to making sure that more than 50 million schoolchildren have healthy meals to help them learn and grow to their fullest potential," said Concannon. "These grants and new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious and enjoyable school meals.”

USDA will competitively-award Fiscal Year 2015 funds to help state agencies develop and implement trainings that satisfy the requirements of the professional standards rule.  A key component of the rule, establishing minimum education and training requirements ensures that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties and responsibilities effectively.                                                     

In developing the final professional standards rule, USDA considered input from a variety of sources, including representatives from state agencies, school districts, and school nutrition professional associations.  As a result, the final rule provides flexibility by creating minimum hiring standards for school food authority directors based on district size. There are also minimum hiring standards for both state directors of school nutrition programs and state directors of distributing agencies that oversee USDA Foods.

The rule requires a minimum amount of annual training hours for all new and current state school nutrition directors, state distributing agency directors, school nutrition directors, managers, and staff.  Required topic areas will vary according to position and job requirements. These changes are effective beginning July 1, 2015, with several built in flexibilities intended to facilitate the first year of implementation and address the challenges faced by smaller school districts.

State agencies administering the NSLP and SBP are eligible to apply for a professional standards grant. Successful grant proposals may provide online and/or in person trainings for school nutrition staff that meet one or more of the learning topics in the areas of: Nutrition, Operations, Administration and Communications/Marketing. They may also provide train-the-trainer sessions to meet learning objectives. The Request for Applications was released today on Grants.gov.  Letters of Intent are due on April 14, 2015, and completed applications are due on June 8, 2015. Up to $150,000 may be requested per state agency.

A comprehensive professional standards website was created to allow school nutrition staff to search for training that meets their learning needs in an easy-to-use location.  The site includes information on webinars, online modules, self-paced training, training materials, manuals, etc.  It also explains how to access the materials, developer information, topics covered, and other details.  For more information visit: https://professionalstandards.fns.usda.gov.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers America’s nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net.