Safe Eating Teams

  • Guiding Principles

    Safety – We are committed to ensuring the safety of all students in our schools. This includes during meal and snack times for students who need additional support with eating.

    Dignity – We are committed to protecting the dignity of students when they are eating at school.

    Belonging – We are committed to supporting all students throughout our schools. This includes creating opportunities for all students to feel a sense of belonging with their peers. Lunch and snack times are important times for students to connect with their peers and build social relationships. As much as possible, we want students to be able to eat with their peers – while maintaining safety and preserving dignity.

    Procedural Guidance

    Safe Eating Team

    The primary members of the Safe Eating Team are:

    • Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) – usually serves as the team leader
    • Occupational Therapist (OT)
    • School Nurse

    In addition, the Safe Eating Team may include:

    • Special Education Case Manager or School Counselor (504 Case Manager)
    • Parent
    • Other knowledgeable school/district staff (ex. Physical Therapist)


    When a concern arises about safe eating, the parent or school staff contacts a member of the Safe Eating Team in writing (by email). The Safe Eating Team gathers initial data to determine if a Safe Eating Evaluation is needed. This includes a parent interview conducted by the School Nurse and informal observations during normal school meal/snack times.


    As with other special education evaluations, the Safe Eating Team needs to obtain signed consent from the parent to conduct a Safe Eating Evaluation

    • Use the Prior Notice for Consent to Evaluate form in Synergy
      • For incoming Kindergarten students, the parent can sign consent at the ECSE Transition meeting
    • Safe Eating Team obtains a Release of Information to communicate with the child’s doctor
    • Safe Eating Team member conducts a file review – including the cumulative file and health file
      • A Barium Swallow study may be part of the data that the Safe Eating Team considers for evaluation. However, some students may not require a Barium Swallow study.
    • Safe Eating Team member contacts parent to set up an observation using the Safe Eating Evaluation form


    A Safe Eating Team member observes the child eating. The observation may take place in the home or in a school setting (including pre-school). During the observation, the student eats as they would typically eat a meal. Ideally, the student will eat a variety of textures and liquids so the Safe Eating Team can observe how they respond to different foods. The parent should be present for the observation during the initial Safe Eating Evaluation. (For updates/revisions to the Safe Eating Protocol, the parent does not need to be present.)        

    The observation notes should include

    • the environment where safe eating takes place (in a familiar environment if possible)
    • the actions of the person assisting the child
    • cues or prompts used
    • characteristics of the food being eaten
    • the degree of independence of the child in preparing and eating food
    • the child’s behaviors & communication before, during and after eating

    Safe Eating Team Decision

    After reviewing information collected from the file review, observation, parent interview and Safe Eating Evaluation, the team determines whether the student needs a Safe Eating Protocol.

    If the Safe Eating Team determines that a student needs a Safe Eating Protocol, the team meets with the parent to share the results of the Evaluation and develop the Protocol, including:

    • Specific details about
      • food preparation (consistency/texture of food)
      • quantity of food
      • likes/dislikes/allergies
      • body/head positioning
      • utensils & equipment
      • student communication about eating
      • specific eating procedures
    • A plan for staff training (and documentation of the training)
    • What to do in an emergency

    As with an IEP meeting, it is best practice for the Safe Eating Team to prepare a draft of the Protocol before meeting with the parent. Meetings can be done via Zoom, phone or in person.

    The Safe Eating Evaluation and Safe Eating Protocol are stored in the Historical Documents tab in Synergy

    • Safe Eating Protocol should be added to IEP under “Supplementary Aids and Services: Accommodations”
    • Safe Eating Consultation should be added to the IEP for training and monitoring (usually 2 hours/year)

    For incoming Kindergarten students who have received ECSE services, Safe Eating Teams will aim to complete Protocols in the spring prior to Kindergarten.


    The people to be notified (via email) about a Safe Eating Protocol include:

    • Classroom Teacher(s)
    • Specials Teachers (PE, Music, etc.)
    • Instructional Assistants or other staff who work directly with the child (especially during meal times)
    • IEP Case Manager
    • Safe Eating Team members
    • Emergency Response Team members
    • Principal
    • Substitute Teacher(s) (note in sub folder)

    Training and Monitoring

    • A member of the Safe Eating team will train staff on Safe Eating Protocols yearly (generally in August or September)
    • Only staff who have been trained by the Safe Eating Team can provide eating support
    • Trained staff will take direction from the Safe Eating Team rather than from the parent
    • A member of the Safe Eating Team should monitor trained staff twice yearly to ensure that the Protocol is being followed correctly
    • Training and Monitoring will be documented on the Safe Eating Protocol

    Evaluation Timeline

    Due to the urgency of students being able to eat safely at school, teams should make every effort to complete Evaluations promptly and have Protocols in place as soon as possible (when the team determines a Protocol is necessary).

    Annual Review

    The Safe Eating Protocol should be reviewed annually.

    • Preferably at the beginning of the school year
    • May be reviewed as part of a student’s annual IEP review
    • If concerns arise throughout the year or if the team receives additional information from outside providers, the Safe Eating Team can meet to revise the Protocol
    • Only the Safe Eating Team can make changes to the Protocol

    Removing a Safe Eating Protocol

    If members of the Safe Eating Team, or other school staff who know the child well, suspect that the child no longer needs a Safe Eating Protocol, the team should conduct a new Safe Eating Evaluation. As with the initial evaluation, the re-evaluation starts with signed consent from the parent. At the conclusion of the re-evaluation, the team may determine that the student no longer needs the Safe Eating Protocol. The team may recommend adding accommodations to the IEP in place of the Protocol.


    Safe Eating Team Documents (Updated Spring 2024)
    *Please upload completed documents to Historical Documents in Synergy



    I cut my child’s food up at home, does that mean they need a Safe Eating Protocol?

    Each child has unique needs. Some children benefit from having their food cut up in advance. However, it may not always be a safety issue. If you are concerned about your child eating safely, you should bring those concerns to your child’s medical provider and your IEP team (case manager or SLP). Medical documentation from your child’s doctor will help the school team determine if a Safe Eating Protocol is necessary for your child.

    What kind of food should I bring for the observation part of the Safe Eating Evaluation?

    It is important for the Safe Eating Team to observe your child eating a variety of foods and liquids to help create an effective Safe Eating Protocol. Please bring foods with a variety of textures and so we can see how your child responds.

    School Staff

    What happens if the Safe Eating Team needs additional medical information before they can complete a Protocol?

    If the Safe Eating Team determines that an additional medical evaluation is necessary, the IEP team should develop a temporary plan. If the plan involves modifying the school day, that would be a change in placement and may require alternate interim instruction. The interim plan will be in place until the Safe Eating Team receives additional medical information and determines how the child can safely eat orally at school (or until a Safe Eating Protocol is in place).

    What happens if the parent refuses consent for a Safe Eating Evaluation?

    If the school has concerns about safe eating and the parents refuse consent for evaluation, the IEP team should meet to consider alternate plans to support access to instruction. This may include a partial day or home instruction. A Student Services administrator must be present at this IEP meeting. Any decision about alternate placement should be followed by a Prior Written Notice.