Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the interpretation of a disability and revised “substantially limits” to now require a lower degree of functional limitation than the previous standard. Examples of major life activities include breathing, eating, seeing, hearing, walking, speaking, learning, affecting major bodily functions (i.e., digestive, immune system, circulatory), etc.

The federal regulations for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs require schools to make accommodations for children who are unable to eat the school meal as prepared because of a disability. In most cases, children with disabilities can be accommodated through the various options offered in the school cafeteria. For a school to make substitutions that fall outside of the meal pattern requirements, the school must have a written medical statement signed by a recognized medical authority on file that indicates the underlying medical condition and the food(s) to be avoided (i.e., the allergen) and a brief explanation of how exposure to the food affects the child. Although not required, the medical statement may also include recommended substitute(s).

Substitutions are often made relatively easily; however, there are situations which may require additional equipment or technical training and expertise. When these instances occur, it is important that the school food service manager and the parent(s) or legal guardian of the child be involved in the meal planning process.

Training Courses and Education


Additional Resources