Accommodating children with special dietary needs in the school

Food allergies are on the rise in children, and an estimated 13 percent of school aged children in the United States have one or more.

And while there’s information out there, many school nutrition professionals continue to have questions.

If a requested substitution meets the meal pattern requirements under any child nutrition program, the substitution can be made, but is not required.​​​ Substitutions must be made to the regular meal, including milk for any child with disabilities (i.e.

Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) nondiscrimination regulation (7 CFR 15​b) 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).

When nutrition services are required under a child’s IEP, school officials need to make sure that school food service staff is involved early on in decisions regarding special meals.

The guide includes nine major sections: Introduction; Statutory and Regulatory Requirements; Making a Meal Modification; Reimbursement for Modified Meals; Meal Modifications and Substitutions; Meal Service Accommodations; Procedural Safeguards and Training; Non-Disability Situations; and Appendices.

The primary federal guidelines that are involved in managing food allergies in school nutrition programs relate to allergies qualifying as a disability.

Named for section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a 504 plan is a legal document that outlines the specific accommodations that will be provided by the school to the allergic child (or any child with a disability).

and School Breakfast Program, make it clear that substitutions to the regular school meal must be made for a child who is unable to eat school meals because of her disability.

USDA’s 2016 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regulation (SP 59-2016) requires school food authorities to make reasonable modifications to accommodate a child with disabilities.

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The guidance addresses IDEA 2004 and the ADA and makes it clear that if a student has a documented disability that restricts her diet, the school food service department must make the substitutions in lunches and afterschool snacks for the student.

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