Special Diet

Special Meal Accommodations



USDA Regulation 7 CFR Part 15b requires substitutions or modifications in school meals for children whose disabilities restrict their diets. A child with a disability must be provided substitutions in foods when that need is supported by a signed statement from a licensed healthcare professional such as a licensed physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.

After the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, most physical and mental impairments constitute a disability. According to the ADA the term 'disability' means:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual;
  • A record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment.

In Cases of Food Allergy

According to the ADA, physical or mental impairments do not need to be life threatening to constitute a disability. For example, a food allergy does not need to cause anaphylaxis in order to be considered a disability. A non-life threatening allergy may be considered a disability and require a meal modification, if it impacts a major bodily function or other major life activity. A child's impairment also may be considered a disability even if medication or other mitigating measures reduce the impact of the impairment.

Medical Statement for Children with Special Dietary Needs

Each special dietary request must be supported by a statement explaining the requested food substitution and must be signed by a licensed healthcare professional. Medical statements completed by parents or guardians will not be accepted.  The Medical Statement must:

  • Describe the physical or mental impairment sufficiently in order to understand how it restricts a child's diet;
  • Explain what must be done to accommodate a child's disability;
  • Identify food or foods to be omitted from a child's diet; and
  • Recommend food or choice of foods that must be substituted in a child's meals.

A written medical statement from a licensed healthcare professional must be received in order to accommodate any meal modifications outside of the regular meal pattern requirements.  

Children with special dietary needs that ore not considered a disability, such as accommodations related to religious or moral convictions, or personal preference that a child eat a specific diet because of general health concerns, are not disabilities and do not require a modification.

Special Dietary Needs Information Flyer, Eng-Span