PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS – Does it apply to you?

The USDA Professional Standards mandate applies to all school nutrition and food service employees that work in districts who participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. This is required for a school district that operates a school nutrition program or contracts with a food service management company.

General job categories have been created to cover the different classifications of school nutrition employees. The categories of Director, Manager as well as Full Time and Part Time Staff are broad enough to cover most school nutrition program employees.

Job categories are determined by an employee’s daily duties rather than their job title. Job categories are defined below.



Directors are responsible for the operation of school nutrition and food service programs for all schools under the authority of the LEA. Responsibilities would include planning, administering, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating all aspects of the school nutrition program. Oversight of sanitation, food safety, employee safety, nutrition standards, menu planning, food production, facility design, equipment selection, procurement, financial management, record keeping, program accountability, marketing, customer service, nutrition education, general management, personnel management and computer technology.

  • Both USDA hiring and annual training standards apply to Directors.



Managers have the primary responsibility for managing the food service site based operations at one or more sites.

  • USDA annual training standards apply to Managers.



Staff are involved in the operation of food service, Duties such as meal preparation and service, point of service transactions, review of free/reduced meal applications and other routine work. Generally, these staff will not have regular management responsibilities.

  • USDA annual training standards apply to Staff – Full and Part Time.



An individual providing support to the school nutrition operation, such as the cleaning custodian or staff aide working during the serving period.

  • USDA annual training standards apply to non-program staff members that work part-time in the school nutrition program during the school year. These individuals must also comply with the training requirements.



All Directors: Minimum 12 hours annually for continuing education/training.

All Managers: Minimum 10 hours annually for continuing education/training.

Staff – Full Time: Minimum 6 hours annually for continuing education/training.

Staff – Part Time: Minimum 4 hours annually for continuing education/training.

Non-Program Staff: Minimum 4 hours annually for continuing education/training required only for those non-program staff members that work in school nutrition programs during the school year.

The school district must ensure that all new and current school nutrition program staff meet minimum annual USDA Professional Standards training requirements. The goal of all training lessons must be to help school nutrition staff enhance basic knowledge, as well as building skills and abilities that will make them better at their job.

All school nutrition staff should be identified in the appropriate job category and must complete the required number of training hours every school year (July 1 to June 30). Considerations should include:

  • Training lessons should be in line with the staff category job duties.
  • Training lessons must meet one of the USDA Professional Standards Learning Objectives.
  • USDA guidelines suggest at least 15 minutes per training lesson.
  • Training needs should be assessed by staff along with the site manager or district director.


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