Access to School Lunches
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. Can my celiac child receive gluten-free meals at school?
A. Students who must adhere to a medically prescribed diet may qualify for special dietary accommodations under the National School Lunch Program. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights statute, prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability in an educational program or institution. Celiac disease may be considered a disability under this law.
Public schools and other institutions participating in federal programs, like the National School Lunch Program, must provide equal access to and participation in, such programs.
Q. Will the school provide gluten-free bread products?
A. If your physician’s order for gluten-meals specifically spells out that GF breads are to be provided, they should be provided. This is a reasonable accommodation.
Q. The regular lunch menu has 3 different entrée options each day will my child have 3 GF options?
A. The school is only required to provide ‘reasonable accommodations.’ In some cases a school may provide 3 GF options. Some schools have worked up to providing multiple options. While others have gone out of their way to provide a GF lunch which mirrors what is offered to the general student population. In the end, what is ‘reasonable’ is a decision made by the court.
Q. What kinds of meals are on a GF school lunch menu?
A. They look similar to those offered on a regular menu. Take a look – GF Menu v. Regular Menu
Q. Can’t schools share the menus, wouldn’t that make it easier?
A. Sharing menus is a great way for schools to get ideas about GF meals. If your child’s school has a GF menu, please forward it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have posted GF menus to make it easier for schools.
Q. If my school food service wants to know where to buy GF products what should I tell them?
A. You can start with local stores where you shop for GF products. Schools can also contact the ACDA for a an extensive list of GF food manufacturers.
Q. Can the school require me to supply the GF breads, crackers or other items which are to be substituted?
A. If your child’s school participates in the federal school lunch program AND the child meets meets the requirements to receive special meal accommodations, then the school cannot require the parent or guardian to furnish gluten-free products. Additionally, the regulations governing the National School Lunch Program specify that foods to be served must be purchased by the school from commercial sources.
If the child attends a private school that provides lunches to its students, they too, must make accommodations. This situation would be governed by the rules set out under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Q. The cafeteria manager advised me to bring GF food to the school and they will serve it. Isn’t this another option?
A. Parents are using this as an option in a number of schools. However, this practice may violate local health codes. Also, as noted above, regulations governing the National School Lunch Program specify that foods to be served must be purchased from commercial sources.