Understanding the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act – Professional Standards

Updated hiring and training regulations aim to promote the health of students.
Children at school lunch

On July 1, 2015 the newest component of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act – Professional Standards – went into effect. The rule requires school foodservice directors to meet hiring standards, and all school nutrition employees (including directors, managers, and staff) must meet annual training requirements.

Why Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act professional standards?

The USDA developed professional standards for a variety of reasons, including the following: 

  • To help school nutrition professionals build skills 
  • To help staff stay current with complex school nutrition programs 
  • To enhance the image of school nutrition employees 
  • To protect the health of students through food handling training

Hiring standards (state and local directors):

All new school food authority (SFA) directors must now meet hiring standards. Minimum requirements vary based on local education agency (LEA) size. Keep in mind that this enrollment category is based on the total number of students for all of the districts a director manages. Existing directors do not need to meet hiring standards and will be grandfathered in their current position. 

Continuing education/training (all school nutrition staff):

Continuing education is required for school nutrition professionals at all levels and is the same for all district sizes. Fewer training hours are required the first year of implementation to help 
operators ease into the standards.

Training will fall into four key learning areas:

  • Nutrition
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Communications & Marketing

More specific topic areas include:

Menu Analysis, Special Diets, Reimbursable Meals, Receiving and Storage, Direct Certification, Program Promotion, and Customer Service. View further information on the different training areas.  

Training is available in a variety of formats including online or in-person, and may be achieved through a number of providers including SNA, NFSMI, USDA, in-house, State Agencies, Professional Organizations, commercial vendors, or distributors.

The school nutrition program director is responsible for demonstrating, during their Administrative Review, that the SFA is in compliance with the professional standards. Each SFA must decide how to maintain records that document training completion. The following documentation is acceptable:

  • Training agenda
  • Sign-in sheets
  • Certificate of completion
  • Other paper documents

FNS has developed an optional tool which schools can use to track their training. This tool is available on the USDA’s Professional Standards website

There are many free training opportunities available through Gordon Food Service including:

  • Webinars
  • Foodservice Training Topics
  • School seminars
  • Food Shows
  • ServSafe

Please ask your Gordon Food Service Customer Development Specialist how to get credit for the training you complete. 

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