SNP Professional Standards

USDA has established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The standards, another key provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), aim to institute minimum education standards for new State and local school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all school nutrition professionals. These new standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

This final rule:

  • Created minimum hiring standards for new school food authority (SFA) directors based on a school district’s size;
  • Established minimum hiring standards for new state directors of school nutrition programs and state directors of distributing agencies; and
  • Required minimum annual training for all new and current school nutrition professionals (see the chart below).

Continuing Education/Training Hours

Position Required Number of Hours
All Directors 12 hours of annual continuing education/training
All Managers 10 hours of annual continuing education/training
All Other Staff 6 hours of annual continuing education/training
Part-Time Staff (Work <20 hours per week) 4 hours of annual continuing education/training      

New directors hired on or after July 1, 2015 are subject to new education requirements. Existing directors will be grandfathered in their current position. View the new hiring standards.

Professional Standards Learning Objectivities

The professional standards learning objectivities are a resource for school nutrition employees and trainers. The training topics are in four key areas:

  • Nutrition
  • Operations
  • Administration
  • Communications/Marketing

Each key area has several key topics and specific training subjects with objectives that will asset training planners or those taking training. View the professional standards objectives and key topics.

State Recognized Certification Plan

The USDA hiring standards for school nutrition directors require a bachelor's degree in specific academic areas. The USDA grants flexibility that allows a state-recognized certification to supplement a bachelor's degree outside one of the required academic areas. Earning this certificate will allow individuals with a bachelor's degree outside one of the required academic areas to meet the USDA professional standard requirements. This certification also counts for allowing a newly hired school nutrition director who lacks one year of experience to gain a year of on-the-job experience.

  • How can a district do this? The Department has developed a memorandum of understanding for districts to utilize.

This certification program was created to assist districts in hiring new school nutrition directors, but it is available and encouraged for anyone who wishes to increase their school nutrition knowledge and gain a state-recognized certification.

There are 3 pathways to certification.


For more information please contact your regional consultant.

All documentation for the state recognized certification can be submitted to

Professional Standards Tracking

Professional standards tracking must include the employee’s position, date of hire, and number of continuing education/ training hours earned. Each district determines the tracking method used. Documentation of training must be maintained locally and may include training agendas and sign in sheets.

For additional information, visit the USDA professional standards website.