Special Dietary Needs

August 15, 2018

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.
  • 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.
  • 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. If a non-dairy milk substitute (ie; soy milk) is served, it must meet the nutritional standards of milk and comply with the nutrient standards as required by guidelines.

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 SFA for non-disabled students 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.
  • The SFA may choose the nondairy beverage to be provided.

A signed physician statement must be on file in order for substitution to be made.

Physician Statement for Meal Accommodations