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Special Diets in CACFP Child Care Programs


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The Connecticut State Department of Education's (CSDE) guide, Accommodating Special Diets in CACFP Child Care Programs, provides guidance on meal modifications for children and infants with special dietary needs, based on the federal nondiscrimination laws and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations. This guide applies to CACFP child care centers (including at-risk afterschool care centers and emergency shelters) and family day care homes.

Children with a Disability  |   Children without a Disability
Guidance and Resources  |   Developing Policy and SOPs for Meal Modifications

Children with a Disability

The USDA requires reasonable meal modifications on a case-by-case basis for children whose disability restricts their diet, based on a medical statement signed by a recognized medical authority. “Case-by-case basis” means that the meal modifications are specific to the individual medical condition and dietary needs of each child. The Connecticut State Department of Public Health defines a recognized medical authority as a state-licensed health care professional who is authorized to write medical prescriptions under state law. This includes licensed physicians (doctors of medicine or osteopathy), physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN).

Children without a Disability

The USDA allows, but does not require, meal modifications for children whose special dietary needs do not constitute a disability. Examples of optional modifications include requests related to religious or moral convictions, general health concerns, and personal food preferences, such as parents who prefer that their children eat a gluten-free diet or organic foods because they believe it is healthier. CACFP facilities may choose to make these accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Meal modifications for children without disabilities must comply with the CACFP meal patterns for children. Meal modifications for infants without disabilities must comply with the CACFP infant meal patterns.

Guidance and Resources

Developing Policy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Meal Modifications

The CSDE recommends that CACFP facilities develop a written policy and SOPs for meal modifications in the CACFP. For information on developing policies, go to What's Next in the left navigation bar.

Nondiscrimination Statements (USDA and CSDE)