Q: Can my celiac child receive gluten-free meals at school?

A: Students who 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 the 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: The regular lunch menu has three different entree options each day. Will my child have three GF options?

A: The school is only required to provide "reasonable accommodations." In some cases, a school may provide three GF options. Some schools have worked up to providing multiple options. Other schools have gone out of their way to provide GF lunch that mirrors what is offered to the general student population. In the end, what is ‘reasonable’ is a decision made by the court.

Q: Can the school require me to supply 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 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 under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Q: Will the school provide gluten-free bread products?

A: If your physician’s order for gluten-free meals specifically spells out that GF breads are to be provided, they should be provided. This is a reasonable accommodation.

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 that will be served must be purchased from commercial sources.

Thank you to Andrea Levario for her contributions the FAQ section of this plan.