Children with Disabilities and Special Dietary Needs Revised (July 2017)
Schools participating in a federal school meal program (National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Special Milk Program, and Afterschool Snack Program) are required to make reasonable accommodations for children who are unable to eat the school meals because of a disability that restricts the diet.
1. Licensed Medical Authority’s Statement for Children with Disabilities
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations 7 CFR Part 15b require substitutions or modifications in school meals for children whose disabilities restrict their diets. School food authorities must provide modifications for children on a case-by-case basis when requests are supported by a written statement from a state licensed medical authority. For this purpose, a state licensed medical authority in Pennsylvania includes a licensed physician, physician assistant, certified registered nurse practitioner, or dentist. The third page of this document (“Medical Plan of Care for School Food Service”) may be used to obtain the required information from the licensed medical authority.
- The written medical statement must include:
- An explanation of how the child’s physical or mental impairment restricts the child’s diet;
- An explanation of what must be done to accommodate the child; and
- The food or foods to be omitted and recommended alternatives, if appropriate.
2. Other Special Dietary Needs
School food service staff may make food substitutions for individual children who do not have a medical statement on file. Such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis and all accommodations must be made according to USDA’s meal pattern requirements. Schools are encouraged, but not required, to have documentation on file when making menu modifications within the meal pattern.
Special dietary needs and requests, including those related to general health concerns, personal preferences, and moral or religious convictions, are not disabilities and are optional for school food authorities to accommodate.
3. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a person with a disability means any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. A physical or mental impairment does not need to be life threatening in order to constitute a disability. If it limits a major life activity, it is considered a disability.
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to: functions of the immune system; normal cell growth; and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
4. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
A child with a disability under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is described as a child evaluated in accordance with IDEA as having one or more of the recognized thirteen disability categories and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with the IDEA and its implementing regulations. When nutrition services are required under a child's IEP, school officials need to ensure that school food service staff is involved early in decisions regarding special meals. If an IEP or 504 plan includes the same information that is required on a medical statement (see section 1, above), then it is not necessary to get a separate medical statement.
Children with Disabilities and Special Dietary Needs
USDA Nondiscrimination Statement
In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights
regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions
participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race,
color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any
program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information
(e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency
(State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have
speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination
Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html,
and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the
information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992.
Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or
This institution is an equal opportunity provider
Click the link below to download the Medical Plan of care for School Food Service Form.