Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs


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The Connecticut State Department of Education's (CSDE) 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 meals 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. The Connecticut State Department of Public Health defines a recognized medical authority as licensed physicians (doctors of medicine or osteopathy), physician assistants, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse anesthetists who are licensed as APRNs.

Children without a Disability

The USDA allows, but does not require, meal modifications for children whose special dietary needs do not constitute a disability, including those related to religious or moral convictions, general health concerns, and personal food preferences, such as a preference that a child eats a gluten-free diet because a parent believes it is better for the child. SFAs may choose to make these accommodations on a case-by-case basis. All meal modifications for children without disabilities in grades K-12 must comply with the USDA meal patterns for grades K-12 and all meal modifications for preschoolers without disabilities must comply with the USDA meal patterns for preschoolers.

The CSDE encourages school nutrition programs to develop a written policy and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for special dietary accommodations in school meals. For information on developing policies, click on What's Next in the left navigation bar.

CSDE Guidance

Nondiscrimination Statements (USDA and CSDE)