The Connecticut State Department of Education's (CSDE) guide, Accommodating Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs, provides information and guidance for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) school nutrition programs on providing meal modifications for children with special dietary needs, based on federal laws and USDA regulations. School nutrition programs include the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) , Afterschool Snack Program (ASP) of the NSLP, Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) , and Special Milk Program (SMP).
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. School nutrition programs may choose to make these accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Meal modifications for children without disabilities in grades K-12 must comply with the USDA's meal patterns for grades K-12. Meal modifications for preschoolers without disabilities must comply with the USDA's meal patterns for preschoolers.
Guidance and Resources
- Allowable Milk Substitutes for Children without Disabilities in School Nutrition Programs
- CSDE Guide: Accommodating Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs
- CSDE Operational Memo No. 13-17: Requirements for Meal Modifications in the School Nutrition Programs
- CSDE Operational Memo No. 22-15: Statements Supporting Accommodations for Children with Disabilities in the Child Nutrition Programs
- CSDE Presentation: Requirements for Meal Modifications in School Nutrition Programs
- Medical conditions (celiac disease and intolerance, diabetes, food allergies, inborn errors of metabolism, and lactose intolerance): Go to Documents/Forms in the left navigation bar.
- Medical Statements (Documents/Forms section)
- Milk Substitutes (Documents/Forms section)
- Policy Memos on Special Diet (CSDE and USDA) (Documents/Forms section)
- Procedural Safeguards: Requirements for Procedural Safeguards for Meal Modifications in School Nutrition Programs
- Resource List for Special Diets in Child Nutrition Programs
- Self-assessment of Local Practices for Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs
- Summary of Requirements for Accommodating Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs
- Training for Special Diets (see CSDE's Resource List for Special Diets in Child Nutrition Programs)
- USDA Memo SP 26-2017: Accommodating Disabilities in the School Meal Programs: Guidance and Q&As
- USDA Memo SP 40-2017: 2017 Edition: Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs
- USDA Memo SP 59-2016: Policy Memorandum on Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the School Meal Programs
Developing Policy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Meal Modifications
The CSDE recommends that schools and institutions develop a written policy and SOPs for meal modifications in school nutrition programs. For information on developing policies and SOPs, go to What's Next in the left navigation bar.
Nondiscrimination Statements (USDA and CSDE)