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Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs


School Nutrition Programs | Program Guidance | Forms | Resources | Nutrition Education

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  |   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. 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

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)