The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise proposed rules for school breakfast and lunch programs, saying the regulations “represent direct federal intrusion into workforce policy, which is determined by school boards, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders at the local level.”
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, NSBA President Thomas J. Gentzel said that while NSBA “acknowledges and applauds” the agriculture department’s involvement of stakeholders, including NSBA, in drafting standards for supervisors and staff in school nutrition programs, NSBA wants to ensure that “educational systems are supported, not undermined, by unfunded mandates or under-resourced requirements.”
The proposed regulations represent further interpretation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010. Among the requirements would be for school nutrition program directors to have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, with a concentration in food and nutrition or related subjects, or a bachelor’s degree and a state-recognized certificate in food or nutrition or a related field. These qualifications would be required for all districts, regardless of size.
Commenting on the regulations, Gentzel wrote: “The standards indirectly disrupt market forces that impact availability and recruitment of qualified staff, and compensation practices for already cash-strapped districts.”
The proposed rules also require at least 15 hours of annual training for new and current nutrition directors, 12 hours of training for new and current managers, and eight hours of training for new and current staff. NSBA also asked that the department eliminate a rule requiring eight hours of training for food service workers within the first 30 days of their employment.
“Training should not be required until employees have completed their probationary period, or are otherwise considered permanent,” Gentzel said.