The USDA has proposed a new rule allowing for more flexibility in hiring school nutrition program directors.
The proposal ties back to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which established training and education requirements for school nutrition programs. Under the new guidelines, some smaller and rural schools had difficulty finding nutrition professionals who met the program’s qualifications.
The new flexibility rule proposed by the USDA would allow for schools with less than 2,500 students to have more say in who they can hire for school nutrition programs.
“Small and rural school districts will no longer have to overlook qualified food service professionals because of one-size-fits-all standards that don’t meet their needs,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Steve Censky.
“We trust our local partners to hire talented school nutrition program directors who will manage the meal service in a way that protects the health and well-being of students,” Censky added.
According to the Federal Register, the proposed rule would include four changes to the current hiring standards. First, it would allow for requiring food service experience rather than strictly school nutrition experience for directors in schools with less then 2,500 students. It would also allow state agencies to consider volunteer and unpaid work as relevant food service experience.
In schools with under 500 students, the proposed rule would allow for schools to require fewer years of food service experience if a candidate had met the education requirements for a new nutrition director position.
State directors of school nutrition programs would also be able to consider applicants with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in relevant fields.
The department is also providing access to resources to help schools improve their applications for free or reduced-price school lunches, including support for online applications. The resources are intended to make the process simpler for families who need to access reduced-price or free school lunches.
“USDA’s goal to do right and feed everyone starts with our children,” Censky said.
“We are committed to giving states and school districts more tools and options to build a bright, self-sufficient future for America’s children through well-managed school meal programs.”
The USDA will also offer a 60-day public comment period until May 7! You can enter your comments here before the deadline to let the USDA know what you think about the changes to hiring standards for small school nutrition programs.
Nutrition in schools is an important issue – but do you think we should allow smaller schools to have flexibility to find qualified candidates to run their nutrition programs? Remember, the deadline is May 7 – so be sure to share your thoughts with the USDA!
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