Serving Healthy School Meals: Staff development and training needs

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, August 2015

From the overview:
….To investigate the staff development and training needed for schools to adequately meet USDA’s updated meal standards, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project—a joint initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—commissioned a national survey of school food service directors or their designees, primarily food service managers. Data collection was conducted in SY 2012-13, which was before USDA released the proposed rule on professional standards.

Most survey respondents said they or their staffs needed more training than is currently available through their own resources or federal and state agencies. To meet the new meal requirements, the majority of school food authorities (SFAs) expected to make at least one change in their production approach, such as implementing standard recipes to ensure consistent nutrient content per serving and cooking more food from scratch. Those changes may require additional training in cooking skills, food safety, and the use of new ingredients or kitchen equipment.

This report, based on a nationally representative survey of school food service directors or their designees, describes the educational and experiential background of their staffs, as well as their assessment of training they need to implement USDA’s updated nutrition standards.

• Finding 1: The most common form of training received by school nutrition professionals was on the job (59 percent of SFA directors and 76 percent of food service managers). SFA directors in small and very small SFAs (fewer than 2,500 students) were more likely to report receiving on-the-job training than those from larger SFAs. Only 29 percent of SFA directors and 7 percent of food service managers reported having bachelor’s degrees in food-related fields (nutrition, food service management, baking/culinary arts). SFA directors from large and very large SFAs (10,000 or more students) were more likely to have bachelor’s degrees than those from smaller SFAs.
• Finding 2: Understanding compliance with the new nutrient requirements and meal standards, or patterns, was a top training need for all school nutrition personnel. Training in basic nutrition, cooking skills, and food safety was a top need for kitchen/cafeteria managers and cooks/front-line servers.
• Finding 3: Only 37 percent of SFAs have budgets for staff development and training. Of those, about twothirds reported that the budgets are not sufficient to meet all of their training needs. Seventy-two percent of respondents reported that state child nutrition agencies would not provide all of the training and resources needed to meet the updated requirements.

Based upon the report findings and a series of specific suggestions discussed in the Kitchen Infrastructure, Training, and Equipment in Schools Workshop, the project recommendations are as follows:
• Recommendation 1: School officials should prioritize and plan opportunities for training of food service personnel.
• Recommendation 2: Federal, state, and local policymakers should prioritize making funds available to help school food service personnel complete training.
• Recommendation 3: Nonprofit and for-profit organizations that have an interest in improving community wellness and children’s health and education should work collaboratively with schools and make use of community resources to increase and enhance training opportunities for school nutrition staff.

A sizable majority of SFAs reported needs for additional training and technical assistance to successfully implement the updated meal standards and improve the quality and appeal of their meals. This report will outline the top training needs of SFAs as they work to provide healthier foods to the students they serve…..