Special Diets in School Nutrition Programs


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

The Connecticut State Department of Education's (CSDE) Guide to Meal Modifications 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 the federal nondiscrimination 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), Special Milk Program (SMP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-risk Supper Program implemented in schools. 

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 physicians (MD), physician assistants (PA) and certified physician assistants (PAC), doctors of osteopathy (DO), and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN).

Children without a Disability

The USDA allows optional modifications within the meal patterns for grades K-12 and the meal patterns for preschoolers on a case-by-case basis for children whose dietary restrictions are not related to a disability. A medical statement is required if these optional modifications are outside the school meal patterns. 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.

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)