Menu Modifications in the CACFP



This web page provides guidance on how to accommodate menu modifications and continue to claim reimbursement for meals and snacks served to participants with disabilities or other medical/special dietary needs.

Menu Modifications for Participants without a Disability

Parents or household members may request that Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Operators make menu modifications for participants due to special dietary needs, personal preference, religious reasons, or in other instances that are not related to a disability.  For example, parents may request that their child receives a fluid milk substitute, or the household member of an adult participant may request that only gluten-free grains are served to the participant.

These substitutes are allowable as part of reimbursable meals and snacks, provided that they are creditable components in the CACFP.  It is at the CACFP Operator’s discretion to provide menu modifications if the request for the modification is not related to a disability; however, CACFP Operators are strongly encouraged to accommodate the dietary needs of participants without a disability.

Parent/Guardian-Provided Components

For the CACFP Operator to claim reimbursement of a meal for a participant without a disability, the parent or household member may only provide one creditable component per meal; the CACFP Operator must provide all other components.

Requests for Nondairy Beverages

Nondairy beverages served in place of fluid milk must meet the minimum nutrient requirements for fluid milk substitutes (see table below) for the CACFP Operator to claim reimbursement without a signed medical statement.  In addition:

  • Parents or household members must provide a written request for a nondairy beverage substitute, identifying the medical or other special dietary need that restricts the participant’s diet.  The written request may be incorporated into an existing form (e.g., enrollment record), or on a specific form (e.g., CACFP 49, Request for a Fluid Milk Substitution, accessible in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System [CNIPS] website).  A signed medical statement is not required to serve nondairy beverages that meet the federal minimum nutrient requirements for fluid milk substitutes.

Table:  Minimum Nutrient Requirements for Fluid Milk Substitutes per 1 cup (8 oz) 

Nutrient Amount
Calcium 276 mg
Protein 8 g
Vitamin A 500 IU (150 mcg)
Vitamin D 100 IU (2.5mcg)
Magnesium 24 mg
Phosphorus 222 mg
Potassium 349 mg
Riboflavin 0.44 mg
Vitamin B-12 1.1 mcg

Requests for Modifications Other than Nondairy Beverages

For menu modifications (that meet the meal pattern requirements) other than nondairy beverages, CACFP Operators must document the modification on either an existing form (e.g., enrollment record), or on a specific form (e.g., CACFP 12, Parent/Guardian’s Form for Declining a Provider’s Infant Formula or Food or CACFP 84, Parent/Guardian’s Form for Declining a Provider’s Food for Older Children [and adults]; both forms are accessible in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS website).

Menu Modifications for Participants with Disabilities

CACFP Operators must make reasonable food and beverage substitutions, at no extra charge, on a case-by-case basis, for participants with a disability that restricts their diet; however, modifications are not required if they would fundamentally alter the nature of the program.  For example, a small CACFP agency with limited staff and resources is not required to accommodate a request for an expensive medical infant formula if the accommodation would cause undue financial burden on the program.  CACFP Operators should send questions by email to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) CACFP Nutrition Team at to determine how to proceed with requests for menu modifications that may fundamentally alter the nature of the program.

Menu Modifications That Meet Meal Pattern Requirements

In many cases, dietary modifications to accommodate a disability are managed within the meal pattern requirements.  For example, there are many gluten-free foods (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, and corn tortillas) that meet the requirements for a creditable grain in the CACFP.

If the disability involves a request for foods or beverages that meet the meal pattern requirements, a medical statement signed by a state licensed healthcare professional is not required; however, CACFP Operators must document the date they communicated with the parent/guardian to determine a safe and appropriate menu modification.  This can be done on a specific form developed by the CACFP Operator to document the menu modifications made within the meal pattern or on an existing form (e.g., enrollment record).

Additionally, if the disability is being accommodated by providing a nondairy beverage that meets the federal minimum nutrient standards for fluid milk substitutes, CACFP Operators must obtain a request in writing from the parent/guardian (see the Requests for Nondairy Beverages section above).

Menu Modifications That Do Not Meet Meal Pattern Requirements

If the disability involves a request for foods or beverages that do not meet the meal pattern requirements, the CACFP Operator must request and retain a signed written medical statement to claim those meals for reimbursement.

Medical Statements

CACFP Operators may use Form ID CACFP 97, CACFP Medical Statement to Request Special Meals or Accommodations, available in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS website, to obtain the level of documentation required to implement a sound nutrition plan for participants with dietary restrictions due to a disability.

Medical statements due to food allergies must: 

  1. Briefly describe how the disability restricts the participant’s diet;
  2. Identify foods to omit from a participant’s diet;
  3. Recommend foods to substitute; and,
  4. Be signed by a state-licensed healthcare professional*

 Medical statements that do not include food allergies must:

  1. Briefly describe the existence of a mental or physical disability;
  2. Describe how the disability impacts the participant;
  3. Identify the modification needed; and,
  4. Be signed by a state-licensed healthcare professional*

* For this purpose and per California Health and Safety Code, Section 11150, the CDSS considers a state licensed healthcare professional in California to be a licensed physician, dentist, or the following healthcare professionals when acting within the scope of their ability to write prescriptions:  physician assistant, nurse practitioner, naturopathic doctor, registered nurse, and out-of-state provider.  CACFP institutions that operate another federal child nutrition program (CNP) in addition to the CACFP, should contact the appropriate oversight agency to determine which state licensed healthcare professionals can sign medical statements to accommodate disabilities for that CNP.

Note:  Signed medical statements may not be altered by CACFP Operators or parents/guardians to document additional or clarifying information about a participant’s disability or menu modification(s).  Additional or clarifying information must be documented separately (e.g., written clarification stapled to the medical statement).

Requests for Brand Name Foods and Beverages

CACFP Operators are not required to provide the specific brand name specified in the medical statement unless the brand name item is medically necessary according to the medical statement.  CACFP Operators should communicate with parents/guardians to identify whether the specific brand is the only effective accommodation, or whether it would be safe and appropriate to provide a different brand.

Accommodating Disabilities Without a Medical Statement 

CACFP Operators should not delay meal modifications while waiting for the family to submit a medical statement or if the CACFP Operator needs additional clarification from the parent, guardian, or physician about the meal modification required.  CACFP Operators can claim meals with dietary modifications that do not meet the meal pattern requirements without a signed medical statement if they: 

  • Maintain documentation of the initial conversation with the family where they first learned of the need for an accommodation and requested the family obtain a signed written medical statement from a state-licensed healthcare professional;
  • Document all follow up with the family if the CACFP Operator does not receive the requested medical statement as anticipated, including what will be done to accommodate the child until a medical statement is received; and,
  • Diligently continue to follow up with the family until a medical statement is obtained or the request is rescinded.

Note:  CACFP Operators should maintain a method of recordkeeping (e.g., written, electronic) for follow-up communications with parents/guardians to clarify menu modifications listed in a medical statement to justify menu modifications that do not meet the meal pattern requirements to the CDSS during a CACFP administrative review.

For additional guidance on accommodating menu modifications for participants with disabilities, access the U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memo CACFP 14-2017, SFSP 10-2017: Modifications to Accommodate Disabilities in the CACFP and Summer Food Service Program

Menu Modifications During the Religious Observance of Passover

Per Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 226.20(h)the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) may approve variations in the food components of meals in any institution or facility where there is evidence that such variations are nutritionally sound and are necessary to meet ethnic, religious, economic, or physical needs.

FNS clarified this allowance in FNS Instruction 783-13, Rev.3, Variations in Meal Requirements for Religious Reasons: Jewish Schools, Institutions, and Sponsors, to meet the needs of Jewish institutions and facilities during the religious observance of Passover only, as follows:

  • Grains are not required to be enriched or whole grain-rich.  Unenriched matzo may be substituted for enriched or WGR grain products.  CACFP Operators are not required to notify the CDSS in advance to use the grains flexibility during Passover.
  • If the meal contains meat or poultry and Offer Versus Serve meal service (only allowed during meals for at-risk programs and adult day care centers) is not an option, CACFP Operators may use one of the four milk flexibilities listed below.
    1. Serve an equal amount of nondairy beverages that is nutritionally equivalent to fluid milk.
    2. Serve an equal amount of full-strength juice in place of fluid milk with lunch or supper.
    3. Serve fluid milk at an appropriate time before or after the meal service period, in accordance with applicable Jewish Dietary Law.
    4. Serve the snack’s juice component at breakfast, lunch, or supper, and serve the corresponding meal’s fluid milk component as part of the snack.

CACFP Operators are required to notify the CDSS in advance to use the milk flexibility option(s) during Passover and maintain documentation of which option was chosen.  To notify the CDSS, email the CDSS CACFP Meal Pattern Waiver Team at with Passover Flexibility in the Subject line, and include the following information:  (1) CNIPS ID(s) of the institution and (2) milk flexibility option(s) being used.

For additional details on allowable flexibilities during Passover for Jewish institutions and facilities, access FNS Instruction 783-13, Rev.3.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades

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CDSS Child and Adult Care Food Program
744 P Street, MS 9-13-290
Sacramento, CA 95814

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