Child care providers, center directors, and parents need to work together in order to ensure that children with special dietary needs receive appropriate foods.
Planning to accommodate a child's special dietary needs should begin before that child is enrolled in the child care program.
USDA’s 2016 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regulation (SP 59-2016) requires school food authorities to make reasonable modifications to accommodate children with disabilities.
These regulations require substitutions or modifications in school meals for children whose disabilities restrict their diets. This guide provides guidance on the requirement for school food authorities to ensure equal access to Program benefits for children with disabilities, which includes providing special meals to children with a disability that restricts their diet.
Knowing families' practices will help you accommodate their preferences in your child care program.
Families also may request certain foods that reflect their cultural background.
The program director or child care provider should ask parents about food needs and family eating patterns before enrolling their child in the child care program.
Decide whether or not the program can provide the foods that meet the child’s special dietary needs before agreeing to enroll that child in the child care program.
If your child’s IEP includes a nutrition component, the school is required to offer special meals, at no additional cost, if your child’s disability restricts her diet.
When nutrition services are required under a child’s IEP, school officials need to make sure that school food service staff is involved early on in decisions regarding special meals.
Including foods from different cultures as a regular part of your menus, instead of a "special" food served only on certain days, is a more effective way to help children learn about foods eaten in different cultures.