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Federal school lunch program concerns for celiac disease

Lana Bandoim's picture
Celiac Disease School Lunch

There are new concerns about the federal school lunch program for children with celiac disease. Students on a restricted diet continue to face problems in the cafeteria and classroom with gluten, but new guidelines may create additional issues. The National School Lunch Program is facing ongoing criticism, and families who have children with celiac disease are worried.


The National School Lunch Program was designed to give children balanced and healthy meals during the day. However, there have been many recent changes to the program that have left parents and school administrators worried about its future. Children with celiac disease face an extra set of problems due to their restricted diets.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act establishes that children with disabilities may not face discrimination in schools, and this rule has been extended to include students with restricted diets due to medical conditions. Although parents may be asked to provide proof from a doctor that a child has celiac disease, the National School Lunch Program is required to accommodate a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, there are multiple reports of schools refusing parent requests or not accommodating the needs correctly. Some parents report staff serving gluten and gluten-free food with the same utensils and storing it together. This is why many people have resorted to packing a lunch for their child, but this option is not always available for every family who depends on the federally subsidized program.

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Now, there are new reports of schools dropping out of the National School Lunch Program because they feel the new guidelines are too strict. The push for healthier lunches has created many student complaints, and some school officials have responded by leaving the program. One of the problems with the revamped healthier menus is that children on gluten-free diets are sometimes being left behind and ignored. In addition, there is another set of concerns for children with celiac disease because the schools leaving the program are creating their own unique menus and are not always listening to restricted diet requests.

Read more about celiac disease:
Celiac disease tips for making bread at home
Gluten-free food alert for people with peanut allergies: Celiac disease warning

Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons