ATTENTION: CO-OP DIRECTORS, CHILD NUTRITION DIRECTORS
When districts enter into an agreement with the Arkansas Department of Education Child Nutrition Unit, the district must comply with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation Non Discrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance. This includes ensuring that children with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).
It is imperative that districts recognize the importance of ensuring access to meal benefits and understand their obligation to provide reasonable modifications for children with disabilities.
On September 27, 2016, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued SP 59-2016: Policy Memorandum on Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the School Meal Programs. This memorandum replaced FNS Instruction 783-2, Rev. 2: Meal Substitutions for Medical or other Special Dietary Reasons as the instruction relates to the School Meal Programs.
SP 59-2016 requires districts to make reasonable modifications to accommodate children with disabilities. This includes providing special meals, at no extra charge, to children with a disability which restricts their diet. The memo explains important changes to the interpretation of the term “disability” included in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008 and emphasizes that the main focus for districts should be working collaboratively with families so that children with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the NSLP and SBP. Child Nutrition staff should not be engaged in weighing medical evidence against legal requirements in order to determine if a medical or physical condition meets the definition of a disability. After the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, most physical and mental impairments constitute a disability.
On May 1, 2017, FNS issued SP 26-2017: Accommodating Disabilities in the School Meal Programs: Guidance and Questions and Answers (Q&As). The Q&As discuss relatively common situations which have raised questions in the past and provide direction for districts working to ensure children with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in the School Meal Programs.
The attached guidance manual is a companion piece to SP 59-2016 and SP 26-2017, and is designed to provide additional guidance on how the broader vision of the ADA can be implemented in school cafeterias nationwide. This resource includes information about:
· Statutory and Departmental requirements to modify policies, practices, and procedures to accommodate children with disabilities
· Developing Procedural Safeguards for modification requests
· Making a modification to Program meals or the meal service area
· Reimbursement for modified meals
· The option to accommodate food preferences for children without disabilities
· Additional resources districts and schools can use in their efforts to build a safe, inclusive environment for children with disabilities.
While this guidance will focus primarily on reasonable modifications in the NSLP and SBP, the information also applies to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, the afterschool snack component of the NSLP, and the Seamless Summer Option.
For guidance on accommodating disabilities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), please see CACFP 14-2017, SFSP 10-2017: Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program, June 22, 2017.
Districts should be aware that while the school food service is specifically responsible for providing the necessary meal modifications for children participating in the School Meal Programs, the overall responsibility for accommodating children with disabilities rests with the school district. USDA and the Child Nutrition Unit encourage a team approach to providing modifications to accommodate disabilities in the School Meal Programs.
See also, Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner’s Memos:
· CNU-17-051 Policy Updates on Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the School Meal Programs
· FIN-15-122 Statements Supporting Accommodations for Children with Disabilities in the Child Nutrition Programs