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    Special Meal Accommodations

    The Department of Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) participates in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Meals Program. We are required to meet nutrition standards and meal pattern requirements for all meals served. We are dedicated to serving nutritious meals and snacks, and we are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all. However, we recognize that some foods may not be suitable for all students, and modifications to the planned menu may be required.


    Special Meal Accommodations

    Special meal accommodations are handled on a case-by-case basis. Per USDA regulations, FNS must make reasonable modifications to accommodate participants with disabilities. Therefore, students with disabilities or in need of a special dietary meal accommodation who require changes to the basic meal (such as special supplements or substitutions) must provide a medical statement with specific instructions from a state licensed healthcare professional. This includes a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a physician’s assistant. Based on the information provided by the medical statement, meals may be modified at no additional cost to students whose disability restricts their diet. The medical statement must include:

    • An explanation of how the child’s physical or mental impairment restricts their diet;
    • an explanation of what must be done to accommodate the child; and
    •  the food or foods to be omitted from the student’s diet; and 
    • the food or choice of foods that must be substituted.

    Reasonable modifications will still be made if a medical statement is not provided at the time of the request. However, the parent/guardian must provide a medical statement as soon as possible, and school officials will follow up with the parent/guardian until the medical statement is obtained. 

    Steps to follow:

    1.    Parent/Guardian contacts the School Nurse

    a.    Parent/Guardian must provide information about their child’s dietary restriction, to include medications needed and a medical statement as indicated above, to the School Nurse. 

    b.    School Administration and School Nurse should develop and keep on file an Emergency Care Plan.

    2.    School Nurse contacts the Cafeteria Manager

    a.    School Nurse should notify the Cafeteria Manager, providing a copy of the medical statement from the licensed healthcare professional. 

    b.    The Cafeteria Manager flags the student’s account in the Point of Sale (POS) system.

    c.     The Cafeteria Manager consults with the Food and Nutrition Specialist to provide appropriate menu changes for the student, if needed.

    3.    Student, Parent/Guardian, School Administration, Teacher(s), School Nurse, and Cafeteria Staff continually work together to follow the plan and sustain a safe environment for the student.


    Food Allergies and Intolerance

    Generally, FNS is not required to make food substitutions for children with food allergies or intolerances who do not have a disability as defined under either Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or Part B of IDEA. However, if a licensed healthcare professional’s assessment states the food allergy results in severe, life-threatening (anaphylactic) reactions or cause significant impact on major bodily functions, then the child’s condition would meet the definition of “disability”; and the substitutions prescribed by the state licensed healthcare professional must be made.

     

    Frequently Asked Questions

     

    Q: How often should I update my child’s medical statements?

    A: Medical statements should be updated as often as needed to reflect the student’s current dietary needs.

     

    Q: What accommodations are available if my child is lactose intolerant?

    A: Lacto-free milk is offered to students that cannot drink regular milk due to a sensitivity or intolerance to fluid cow’s milk. Parents must provide a written request to FNS, identifying the student’s medical need and a list of other milk or dairy products that should be avoided. 


    Q: Can my child substitute juice for fluid milk?

    A: Generally, no. Federal and state regulations require milk as a component of the school meals pattern. Milk contributes important nutrients such as protein, calcium, riboflavin, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. No other food or beverage can match the essential nutrients contained in milk. For students who cannot drink milk due to milk allergies or other medical conditions, a medical statement from an authorized medical authority is required with a list of approved substitutes, such as 100 percent fruit juice.

     

    Q: My child does not have a disability but simply does not like milk. What options does he/she have?

    A: Students are not required to take milk if they select enough of the other components from the menu (Protein, Grains, Fruit, and Vegetables) to make a complete meal. Your child may choose to bring another beverage from home or purchase a beverage a la carte at school. Unfortunately, FNS cannot accommodate special diets based on personal preferences or religious reasons.

     

    Q: My child is allergic to specific allergens. How do I find out which foods contain that allergen?

    A: Our interactive menu program, MealViewer, allows you to identify allergens* (soy, peanut, milk, fish, egg, shellfish, wheat, and tree nuts) in foods. Once the allergen* is marked, the program will line through any item that contains the allergen*.

     

    Q: My child has diabetes. Where can I find the Nutrition Facts* that include the amount of carbohydrates in a meal?

    A: Interactive menus with Nutrition Facts* are published monthly online and via the smart-phone application (app), MealViewer. Find the Nutrition Calculator on the webpage or app to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in a meal. MealViewer allows the user to change the amount consumed to either ¼ , ½, or ¾ of a food item if the entire portion is not eaten. FNS staff work closely with school nurses to ensure that the correct amount and type of food is served to meet the needs of students with diabetes in elementary schools. Older students should use MealViewer or contact the school cafeteria manager for nutrition information. 

    * Be aware that FNS makes every effort to provide current information; however, manufacturers may change formulations without informing us. If you have a concern, then contact the school cafeteria manager or the FNS Central Office.


    For additional questions regarding Special Meal Accommodations, please contact a Food and Nutrition Specialist:

    The USDA and MSDE are an equal opportunity provider. For more information go to: https://www.fns.usda.gov/cr/fns-nondiscrimination-statement