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Special Dietary Needs

Information regarding special dietary needs, allergies, food intolerances, and food substitutions

Related Documents:
2019 2020 Special Dietary Needs



Accommodating Students with Disabling Special Dietary Needs


Schools participating in a federal Child Nutrition Program (School Breakfast, Lunch or After School Snacks) are required to make accommodations for children who are unable to eat the school meals because of a "disability"* that restricts their diet.  In order to make accommodations or substitutions to the school meal, schools MUST have a written Medical Statement on file that is signed by a licensed physicianThe statement must identify:




  • The child's disability
  • An explanation of why the disability restricts the child's diet
  • The major life activity affected by the disability
  • The food(s) to be omitted from the child's diet
  • The food or choice of foods that must be provided as the substitute




Accommodating Students With non-Disabling Special Dietary Needs


The school food authority MAY, at their discretions, make substitutions for students who have a special dietary need, but do not meet the definition of disability.  Examples include food intolerances or allergies that do not cause life-threatening reactions.  The decision to accommodate a student's special dietary need can be determined on a case-by-case basis, however, the school should remain consistent with accommodating special dietary needs.  In order to make modifications or substitutions to the school meals, schools must have a written Medical Statement signed by a recognized medical authority identifying the following:


  • An identification of the medical or other special dietary condition which restricts the child's diet
  • The food or foods to be omitted from the child's diet
  • The food or choice of foods to be substituted


In Georgia, a recognized medical authority includes a physician, physician assistant, and nurse practitioner.



For students with non-disabling special dietary needs which restrict their intake of fluid milk, the following applies:

  • Parent's/guardians or a recognized medical authority (physician, physician's assistant, or nurse practitioner) may request a fluid milk substitute for a student with a non-disabling medical dietary need, such as milk intolerance, or due to cultural, religious, or ethnic beliefs.  The request must be made in writing.
  • The written request from a parent/guardian or medical authority identify the student's medical or special dietary need that prevents them from consuming cow's milk.  Specifically referring to milk substitutions, a "special dietary need" can refer to cultural, ethnic, or religious needs, as well as medical needs.
  • Nondairy beverages offered as a fluid milk substitute must meet the established nutrient standards, as indicated in Question 20 in USDA memo SP 07-2010, and the GADOE SNP Criteria and Procedures MS-03-01:  Fluid Milk Substitutions.
  • Juice and water cannot be substituted for fluid milk as part of the reimbursable meals even when requested by a physician.  Some schools may routinely offer fruit and vegetable juices on their menus as options for a fruit or vegetable choice.  Fruit and/or vegetable juices cannot be offered in place of milk, but only as a fruit or vegetable choice for all students. All juice must be 100% full strength.

Responsibility of Parents


  • Notify the school of any food allergy, disability or special dietary need.
  • Provide a current Medical Statement completed by a physician (disability), a recognized medical authority (non-disabling special dietary need), or the parent (non-disabling special dietary needs for milk only).
  • Participate in any meetings or discussions regarding the student's meal plan.  Maintain a healthy line of communication with the school.
  • Notify the school of any changes to the special dietary needs (a new Medical Statement is required if the diet changes).

Responsibility of the School Nutrition Program

  • Provide food substitutions for students according to the Medical Statement.  The school nutrition staff may not revise or change a diet prescription or medical order.
  • Provide training to cafeteria personnel on how to properly accommodate students with special dietary needs.  Maintain documentation of this training.
  • Communicate with parents, staff, and medical authorities regarding diet modifications.
  • Maintain Medical Statement of each student with a special dietary need.  Diet orders are not required to be renewed on a yearly basis; however, the Georgia Department of Education recommends that you confirm, on a yearly basis, the diet order has not changed.  If there are any changes to the diet, a new Medical Statement is required.
  • If the school is opting to make a milk substitute available for non-disabling dietary needs, research products to ensure that they meet the USDA nutrient standards for milk substitute.  Notify the Georgia Department of Education, School Nutrition Division if you are making milk substitutes available for non-disabling special needs.




  • Collaborate with the School Nutrition Program Director, school staff, parents, and physician to appropriately share pertinent information, obtain a copy of the Medical Statement, and accommodate students with special dietary needs.
  • Develop a medical plan of care as appropriate (Individualized Healthcare Plan).



Based upon Federal laws that prohibit discrimination and ensure equal access to education, some students may have instructions for accommodating their special needs written into a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Typically, a team consisting of the school professionals and the parents collaborate to develop these plans.  If the 504 Plan or IEP involves special dietary needs, the school nutrition program director should be involved.


This Institution is an equal opportunity provider.
























For students requiring special dietary needs, please download the form to the right for completion. The form must be completed by the child’s physician.  Sumter County School Nutrition Program will provide nutritious meals to accommodate children with special dietary needs such as allergies or certain restrictions once given physician’s orders.


"USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer."