Even though in existence since the late 1980s, many often ask, “What is the Cal Pro NET Center?” In simplest terms, it is a yearly grant awarded to the Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging (NuFS/PKG) Department. This grant provides training for K-12 school food service directors throughout California. Funded by the California Department of Education (CDE), it is administered by the San José State University Research Foundation (SJSURF).
In 1989, a professional development task force convened to discuss the need for more formalized training for school food service personnel. The task force, headed by Violet Roefs, California Department of Education and Dr. Lucy McProud former Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging Department Chair, outlined drafts of educational competency courses. The program was named The Project Management Center for Child Nutrition. The following year, the first course Managing Effective Accountability Practices was offered.
In 1992, Julie Dutcher, a former Child Nutrition Consultant was hired as the project director. The budget that year was $25,000 and Dutcher implemented a 30-hour, 2-unit course in teaching methodology integrated with nutrition and food service management lessons. The course, Effective Teaching Strategies proved very successful and the Center was launched.
Over the next three years, the yearly budget was in the $100,000 to $200,000 range and the list of courses grew. The flagship course offered by Cal Pro NET, the Child Nutrition Program Administration (CNPA), also known as the New Director’s Course was introduced at this time. The first session was a 10-hour course held at San José State with about 20 directors. This past summer 2017, three sessions of this course were offered, educating 122 food service directors.
Changes in staff occurred in 1994 when Barbara Gordon took over as contract coordinator and Sherry Norwood started in 1997 as the Child Nutrition Education Specialist. Gordon changed the name to the California Professional Nutrition Education Training Center during this time to reflect the work that was being done to train those in child nutrition. Technology was advancing during this period and teleconferences were offered to school nutrition personnel on Food-Based Menu Planning, Food Safety (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points or HACCP), Communicating with School Officials, and Achieving Financial Goals.
In 1998, Joan Giampaoli became Project Coordinator. Giampaoli continued to update and expand CNPA and Effective Teaching Strategies courses. During the 2000 contract year, Giampaoli and Norwood developed and offered 12 one-day courses throughout the state on the new US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Sandy Queen served as Project Coordinator from 2001 to 2007. Federal regulations pertaining to school meals and the intent to serve meals that were more nutritious called for increased training. Courses developed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption were introduced while continuing to offer CNPA, Food Safety workshops, and Effective Teaching Strategies. In 2006, the USDA required an annual mandatory training of all school districts and Residential Care Facilities offering school meals. Cal Pro NET was charged with this task to monitor training for over 1,300 agencies.
Today, Linda Sweeney is the coordinator for the grant. Much has changed, but the training center at San José State University has stayed committed to providing the best in training to school service directors. The training center currently offers online training yearly for the annual training and the Summer Food Service Program sponsors. The training center’s website features an Outreach Toolkit to help districts market their meals and promote school meals in a positive light. In 2014, a School Nutrition Program Primer was introduced that gives an overview of all of the requirements and regulations needed to run a successful program as well as resources and links to more information. The program also provides a two-day in-person Financial Management course. Still in operation and more popular than ever is the CNPA or New Director’s course. This course uses both the regulatory expertise of the CDE staff and the practical application from experienced food services directors to teach participants. Over the years, we have trained over one thousand new directors.
The grant has been guided by many dedicated personnel over the past 28 years and grown to provide a valuable service for food service directors throughout the state. The Cal Pro NET Center at SJSU is seen as a valuable resource to school districts throughout the state. Nearly $3.9 million dollars have been provided to the SJSURF from the CDE for professional training throughout the years.