Grant will help train ND food service workers

Dale Wetzel, State Corrispondant
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said a new grant will pay for expanded training statewide for North Dakota school food service workers and managers.

The grant will finance at least eight hours of training for 650 front-line service workers and at least 40 hours for food service directors and managers. The training will cover food buying and preparation techniques, meal demand forecasting, recipe consistency, and cultural best practices. It will be offered in English and Spanish.

The Department of Public Instruction will put special emphasis on training school nutrition professionals at Native American tribal schools, said Linda Schloer, director of the agency’s child nutrition and food distribution unit. Workers who finish the eight hours of training within six months will be eligible for a $100 payment, while managers who complete the 40 hours will qualify for a $500 payment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regional Food and Nutrition Service Mountain Plains office is providing a $778,000 grant to finance the training. North Dakota is one of eight states receiving a share of $7.1 million in grants. The other states are Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Virginia, and Washington.

Baesler said the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected school meal service across North Dakota, as schools had to contend with school closings for in-person instruction, staff turnover, and supply chain disruptions that affected the availability of milk and other staple foods.

“Making sure that our students have nutritious and tasty food available at school increases their ability to learn, because no one is able to learn well when they are hungry,” Baesler said. “This training grant will refresh the skills of our school food service workers and their supervisors, who play such an essential role in the education of our children.”

Cheryl Kennedy, administrator for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Mountain Plains region, said school nutrition professionals in North Dakota “have made incredible strides in strengthening the school meals programs in recent years, and USDA is committed to supporting them in this effort.”