SNP Special Dietary Needs

The school nutrition program may modify meal offerings for children with developmental disabilities and for children with special dietary needs.


The school nutrition program is required to offer special meals at no additional cost to children whose disability restricts their diet as defined in USDA’s nondiscrimination regulations, 7CFR Part 15b.26 (d). Substitutions or modifications for children with disabilities must be based on a prescription written by a licensed physician and included in the student’s individualized education program (IEP). The IEP should include all nutrition modifications to be made by the school cafeteria. The statement from the licensed physician must provide the following information:

  • Identity of the disability
  • Major life activity(s) impacted
  • Diet restriction(s)
  • Complete diet order
  • Foods to be omitted
  • Foods to be substituted

Generally, children with food allergies or intolerances do not have a disability as defined under either Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or Part B of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The school food service may, but is not required to, make food substitutions for them. However, when in the licensed physician's assessment, food allergies may result in severe, life-threatening (anaphylactic) reactions, the child's condition would meet the definition of "disability," and the substitutions prescribed by the licensed physician must be made.

Special Dietary Needs (Non-disability)

The child nutrition program is encouraged, but not required, to provide food substitutions or modifications for children without disabilities who have medically certified special dietary needs and are unable to eat regular meals as prepared. In many cases, these special nutrition needs can be accommodated through offer verses serve or by providing additional meal choices. The statement from the recognized medical authority must provide the following information:

  • Identity of the medical condition
  • Foods to be omitted
  • Foods that may be substituted

Additional guidance on the definitions of a licensed physician and recognized medical authority is available.

Record Maintenance

  • All student medical information must be maintained in a confidential manner.
  • Information is only shared with other school personnel who have direct contact with the student or who need information for the student’s safety.
  • Never revise or change a diet prescription.
  • If the diet changes, a new prescription must be obtained from the licensed physician or recognized medical authority.
  • New diet prescriptions must be dated so that it is clear which diet prescription is current.
  • Out-dated diet statements/prescriptions and related documentation, such as team meeting notes, should be maintained in accordance with the school’s established policies and procedures.