Professional Standards

Professional Standards for State and Local School Nutrition Programs

The USDA Professional Standards rule was effective July 1, 2015, and it established minimum professional standards for school nutrition staff managing and operating the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These standards include hiring criteria for child nutrition directors, continuing education/training requirements for all child nutrition staff, and annual documentation of continuing education/trainings attended or provided.
Essential Information  Minimize 
The intent of the Professional Standards rule is to reduce risks in school food service operations and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of program operations. 

Affected School Nutrition Programs 
  • National School Lunch Program
  • Afterschool Care Program
  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
  • Seamless Summer Option
  • School Breakfast Program

Different Positions Have Different Standards 
  • School nutrition program directors 
  • School nutrition program managers 
  • Other school nutrition program employees 

Total Student Enrollment Level Affects Hiring Requirements 
  • Smaller sized contracting entities—2, 499 students or less 
    • Under 500—500 students or less 
  • Medium sized—2,500 to 9,999 students 
  • Larger sized—10,000 students or more 

Types of Professional Standards 
  • Continuing Education/Training Standards that specify continuing education/training hours and topics based on employee responsibilities. 
  • Hiring Standards that specify the educational background and professional experience of the employee based on employee responsibilities.

Date of Hire Determines Requirements Necessary 
  • Employees hired prior to July 1, 2015, must meet the continuing education/training professional standards requirements for their job functions. 
  • Employees hired on or after July 1, 2015, must meet the meet the continuing education/training professional standards requirements for their job function and must meet the educational background and professional experience requirements based on the number of students enrolled by the school district or charter. 

USDA  – Refer to USDA's Professional Standards guidelines online. 
TDA – The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the regional Education Service Centers (ESC) have developed continuing education/trainings, tools, and resources to assist districts in meeting the new regulations. 
ESC – Share concerns with TDA and your regional ESC. Look to them for additional technical assistance.

Online Training Modules  Minimize 

Online Training Modules   

The Department of Agriculture has released 22, thirty-minute online courses that are designed to meet the USDA Professional Standards training requirements for NSLP Child Nutrition staff. Course material covers a variety of topics, including meal patterns, offer versus serve, identification of reimbursable meals, common errors in counting and claiming, staying USDA foods safe, and meal marketing and promotion.

Each module is based on the nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act of 2010 and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

All classes are available free of charge. Upon completion of each course, participants will receive a certificate of completion for their records. If the district wishes to award CPEs for this course, credit is .5 hours. Visit TDA’s online education and self-study library to access the modules.

Certificates of completion for TDA Professional Standards courses taken through the Texas Education Agency Gateway website are available. Step by step instructions are available here.

Resources  Minimize 
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Publication NameDownloadAboutProgram Name
Hiring Program Director Checklist          School Nutrition Programs
Professional Standards Tracking Sheet          School Nutrition Programs

Questions and Answers  Minimize 
1. Question: What documentation will be required for the Professional Standards?  
Answer: (1) Contracting entities (CEs) must have documentation to support the education level and professional experience of the employee based on the requirements for their position who are hired on July 1, 2015 or after, as well as records of continuing education/training hours completed for each school year for each employee in their Child Nutrition Department. The review of this documentation will be part of the Administrative Review process. (2) CEs must have documentation related to staff continuing education/training that demonstrates the following:
  • The program director meets the hiring professional standards. If the program director’s length of employment covers a period of time that is longer than the required records retention standard, the CE must keep those records for as long as the employee is on staff plus the required number of years. 
  • The program director has met the requirements for food safety training within the last five years. CEs need to ensure that records related to food safety training are kept for the full five years even if other records retention periods expire.
  • All CE employees have completed the continuing education/training hours each school year.

2. Question: Are there requirements about what agencies or entities provide continuing education/training?
Answer: No, Regulations do not require that continuing education/training sources be provided by specific agencies, organizations, or individuals. However, it is the CE’s responsibility to ensure that all continuing education/training opportunities focus on nutrition-related topics and are conducted by knowledgeable nutrition sources. Nutrition program-related continuing education/training may be provided by, but are not limited to, the following sources:
  • Education service centers
  • Local school nutrition program (in house)
  • Nutrition conferences 
  • Nutrition focused vendors
  • Nutrition organization
  • Other knowledgeable nutrition sources
  • State or federal agency 
  • Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)

3. Question: Will TDA provide additional continuing education/training opportunities to help schools meet Professional Standards?
Answer: (1) TDA will continue to provide continuing education/training to school districts through the 20 regional Education Service Centers (ESC’s). ESCs base their continuing education/training schedules on needs of their region. (2) USDA is working with the national Institute for Child Nutrition (ICN) to create more continuing education/training opportunities for all school districts. 

4. Question:
Will there be money available for schools to help cover continuing education/training costs to meet the continuing education/training Professional Standards?
Answer: (1) Continuing education/training provided by the regional ESC’s is available at no cost to school district employees. (2) Many ICN continuing education/trainings are available in an electronic format and can be accessed at no cost.(3) Continuing education/training costs are an allowable expense (Child Nutrition funds can be used to pay for the continuing education/training).  

Assistance available in English and Spanish. Please call 877-TEX-MEAL (877-839-6325) for help.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410
Fax: (202) 690-7442; or
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Texas Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Sid Miller