The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nondiscrimination regulation (7 CFR 15b), as well as the regulations governing the Child Nutrition Programs, make it clear that substitutions to the regular meal must be made, at no extra cost, for children who are unable to eat meals served in any Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) because of their disabilities. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has issued SP 59-2016: Policy Memorandum on Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the School Meal Programs and CACFP 14-2017, SFSP 10-2017 Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the Child and Adult Care , which clarify that Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) institutions and facilities and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors (Program operators) and School Food Authorities (SFAs) are required to make reasonable modifications to accommodate children with disabilities. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs (FNP) will routinely review Program Operators/SFAs for documented compliance to these regulations during Administrative, Site and Home Reviews.
The Definition of a Disability:The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 made important changes to the meaning and interpretation of the term "disability." The changes demonstrated Congress's intent to restore the broad scope of the ADA by making it easier for an individual to establish that he or she has a disability. After the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, most physical and mental impairments constitute a disability. Therefore, rather than focusing on whether or not a student has a disability, Program Operators/SFAs should focus on working collaboratively with parents to ensure an equal opportunity to participate in the school meal programs and receive program benefits.
Note: Program Operators/SFAs are encouraged but not required to consider children's cultural, religious, and ethical preferences when planning and preparing meals. Variations must be consistent with meal pattern regulations for children's meals to be eligible for reimbursement.
Program Operators/SFAs are Responsible for:Communicating the Availability of Meal Modifications
Providing Access to Meals Served in CNPs to All Students
Ensuring Information is Current and Confidential
Note: Due to their larger size, SFAs must have in place certain administrative functions that are not required for smaller Program Operators. For more information about requirements that apply to your operation contact your DESE Consultant.
ReimbursementReimbursement for a modified meal is based on a child's eligibility for free, reduced price, or paid meals, regardless of the extent of the meal modification. Program Operators/SFAs will not receive additional reimbursement to cover the extra costs sometimes associated with providing a reasonable modification and may not charge children with disabilities an extra fee for a modified meal.
Declining Meal Modification RequestsProgram Operators/SFAs generally should not decline to provide a meal modification to accommodate a child's disability that is supported by a medical statement. However, Program Operators/SFAs may decline a request for a meal modification that would fundamentally alter the nature of the CNP. A fundamental alteration is a modification so drastic that it would change the essential nature of the CNP. Program Operators/SFAs should work closely with families to prevent any misunderstandings before declining a modification request. We encourage Program Operators/SFAs to contact your DESE consultant if you plan to decline a modification request.
Note: For more information about procedural safeguards and Civil Rights Complaint Process see your program specific resources or contact your DESE Consultant.
Taking a Team Approach:When it is possible, FNS and FNP strongly encourages Program Operators/SFAs to take a team approach when implementing the guidelines in this memorandum and providing modifications for participants with disabilities. Developing a team that includes individuals from the SFA, sponsoring organization, center, day care home, or summer site, and the Section 504 Coordinator (when there is one) will help ensure consistent decisions, implementation, and tracking of meal modifications. The most effective team may also include others with training in this area, such as a nurse or Registered Dietitian. Any request for a modification related to the meal or meal service should be reviewed by the team and forwarded to the Section 504 Coordinator, when there is one.
If you have questions about providing meal modification in Child Nutrition Programs in Massachusetts, contact the DESE FNP at Nutrition@doe.mass.edu and 781-338-6480.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Last Updated: September 28, 2021
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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