Accommodating children with special dietary needs dating too busy to call
USDA’s 2016 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regulation (SP 59-2016) requires school food authorities to make reasonable modifications to accommodate a child with disabilities.
These regulations require substitutions or modifications in school meals for a child whose disability restricts her diet. This guide provides guidance on the requirement for school food authorities to ensure equal access to Program benefits for children with disabilities, which includes providing special meals to children with a disability that restricts their diet.
Any nutrition-related services included in a child’s IEP deemed necessary for the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) must be provided at public expense and at no cost to the child’s family. Schools are reminded that they may have additional obligations to children with disabilities under the IDEA, beyond the scope of FNS guidance.
The guidance addresses IDEA 2004 and the ADA and makes it clear that if a student has a documented disability that restricts her diet, the school food service department must make the substitutions in lunches and afterschool snacks for the student.
The guide includes nine major sections: Introduction; Statutory and Regulatory Requirements; Making a Meal Modification; Reimbursement for Modified Meals; Meal Modifications and Substitutions; Meal Service Accommodations; Procedural Safeguards and Training; Non-Disability Situations; and Appendices.
Nutrition Services under an IEP IDEA requirements may impact the service of meals.
Consider including some of these foods in your weekly menus, both to help children from that culture feel more comfortable, and to introduce other children in in the child care program to these foods that are part of their classmate's culture.
If the menus cannot be changed completely, you may be able to make some substitutions for children who do not eat meat or other animal products.
If the program cannot provide foods to meet the child's needs, ask the parents to provide meals and snacks that meet their child's needs, or refer the family to another child care program that can better accommodate their child's special diet. Cow’s milk is a problem for some infants and young children.
Other common allergens include wheat products, peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs.
Here is an example of a vegetarian child care menu that follows the guidelines of the USDA's My Plate and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
This menu would be appropriate for children who do not eat meat, but do eat eggs and dairy products.
Including foods from different cultures as a regular part of your menus, instead of a "special" food served only on certain days, is a more effective way to help children learn about foods eaten in different cultures.