A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a case at Lesley University where students gained huge ground in the crusade for gluten-free eating options. From their petitions, the students found legal support and coverage under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This case set a precedent in which Celiacs and the gluten sensitive can gain coverage. To summarize, if you are dependent upon the food served at a public institution(such as with a required student meal plan or even in jail), the gluten intolerant have food rights to ensure that healthy gluten-free options are available.
This coverage got me curious about other federal programs that aim to provide healthy meals to their constituents. As such, I looked in to find out information about the National School Lunch Program, which aims to provide meals to food insecure children that are well balanced and healthy. Particularly with Michelle Obama’s crusade towards health and fitness, the school lunch programs have certainly become a hot topic issue.
What I found was very interesting. If your child has a medically diagnosed gluten sensitivity (or any other food allergy), they are actually eligible for coverage under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (commonly referred to in schools as a “504 plan”). The civil rights statute prohibits any discrimination against disabilities in educational institutions. With the case at Lesley University serving as a precedent, all diagnosed Celiacs fall under this definition, and rightfully deserve protection.
With this coverage, parents will be able to work with school counselors/school psychologists (to ensure proper legal coverage), cafeteria staff, and their physician to provide a reasonable accommodation for their child and other students suffering from allergies. Physicians can actually “prescribe” the diet (as they would medication) that must be followed by the school’s staff. Oftentimes it is best to work with a dietitian (as opposed to general physician or pediatrician) who specialize in working with clients to craft solutions for delicious gluten-free food options that the school can affordably provide and the children will enjoy eating!
For more information and support visit americanceliac.org.