Michelman MM, McDonnell E, Probart C, Birkenshaw P.
Training Needs for School Food Service Personnel in Pennsylvania. Presented at American School Food Service Association Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, July 1997.


In 1996, new federal regulations were put into effect requiring School Food Service (SFS) employees to plan school meals that meet nutrient standards and the Dietary Guidelines. The regulations resulted in a need for SFS employees at all levels to learn new reimbursable meal patterns and documentation requirements. A needs assessment reflecting the perspective of School Food Service Directors (SFSD) is crucial in identifying training needs. In Pennsylvania, a needs assessment was conducted through written surveys and phone interviews to determine the training and general needs for SFS. The survey was mailed to a random sample of 200 SFSD in the state, and 104 completed surveys were returned. Responding to the open-ended question, "What are your specific needs to help you meet USDA regulations?", the most frequent responses referred to training in nutrient analysis, computer training, time, and assistance with recipes and menus. Additional topics of concern were obtaining a computer, better interpretation of the guidelines, product information, clarification on monitoring requirements from the state, production records, money, student and staff education. In addition, to provide more in depth feedback, phone calls were placed to 30 geographically dispersed SFSD who function as trainers within their local areas as part of a statewide training. These SFSD were asked to provide suggestions for the training needs for SFS in Pennsylvania. An overwhelming majority of directors called for training directed towards SFS employees other than directors (managers, cooks, servers) in topic areas dealing with the new federal regulations. Training areas often mentioned included NuMenus, production records, dietary guidelines and standardizing menus. Other ideas included instruction in modifying current recipes, computer training and cycle menu samples of the different menu planning systems. Sanitation was also mentioned as a training need. The results indicate an interest for training in many areas, specifically relating to the new federal regulations, with particular emphasis on computer skills and monitoring requirements. Future training should be targeted to all levels of SFS employees.