Nutrition and Wellness Programs
Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs
The United Stated Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) nondiscrimination regulation (7 CFR 15d) applies to any site participating in a federally-funded meal program, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Special Milk Program (SMP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
If a requested substitution meets the meal pattern requirements under any child nutrition program, the substitution can be made, but is not required.
For a child with a disability
Substitutions must be made to the regular meal, including milk for any child with disabilities (i.e. a life-threatening reaction when exposed to the food and/or beverage) when the following two requirements are met:
- A licensed physician’s statement is required. Pursuant to Section 27-8.1 of the School Code, the licensed physician that may perform student health examinations is a physician licensed to practice medicine in all of its branches. Schools can provide the Physician’s Statement for Food Substitutions sample form to families for a physician to complete.
- The statement must include the child’s disability, explanation as to how the disability restricts the child’s diet, the major life activity affected by a disability, and food(s)/beverage(s) to be omitted and foods/beverages to be substituted.
For children with disabilities only requiring modifications in food texture (such as chopped, ground, or pureed), a licensed physician’s written instructions indicating the appropriate texture is recommended, but not required
For a child without a disability
Substitutions may be made to the reimbursable meal for any child who has a food intolerance or allergies that do not rise to the level of a disability when the following two requirements are met:
- A signed statement from a “medical authority” is required. A medical authority would include licensed physicians, chiropractic physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Schools can provide the Physician’s Statement for Food Substitutions sample form to families for a physician to complete.
- The statement must include the medical or other special dietary reason for the need for substitution, the food(s)/beverage(s) to be omitted, and food(s)/beverage(s) to be substituted.
For a child without a disability who is requesting JUST a fluid milk substitution from the meal pattern requirement
Any fluid milk substitution that meets these requirements may be made by the facility for non-disabled children when the following requirements are met:
- A signed statement from a medical authority, parent or guardian which includes the medical or other special dietary reason for the need for substitution. Any reasonable request could be accepted (e.g. milk allergy, vegan diet, and religious, cultural or ethical reasons). If a request only states that a child does not like milk, the student can be offered flavored milk instead of a milk substitute.
- USDA’s Guidance for School Food Service Staff
Note: The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 amended the Federal definition of disability, broadening it to cover additional individuals, by adding a new category called “Major Bodily Functions” – “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
- Federal Laws, Regulations and Resources
- Guidelines for Management of Food Allergies in Schools
- Safe at School and Ready to Learn (National School Boards Association)
Questions regarding school meal or milk accommodations? Contact Nutrition Programs Division at 800/545-7892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions regarding accommodations within the school beyond the meal programs? Contact Special Education Division at 217/782-5589.