Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

CACFP Administrative Manual Section 10.1

Child and Adult Care Food Program Administrative Manual Section 10: Meal Service.

Table of Contents
Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms

Section 10.1: Meal Service

Meal Service

Agencies can provide two types of meal service in the CACFP:

  • Traditional Meals (preplated)
  • When serving preplated meals, the center staff and DCH providers must ensure that all meal components, including milk, are served to each participant at the same time.
  • Family-Style Meals
  • Each table must be served enough food to provide the required portion of all food components for participants and supervising adults (if the adults eat with the participants) seated at the table.
  • Participants must be allowed to serve all components themselves, with the exception of fluids (i.e., milk and juice). When supervising adults choose to serve participants fluids, they must provide the minimum quantity as required by the meal pattern.
  • During the course of the meal, it is the responsibility of the supervising adult to actively encourage each participant to accept the required portion of each food component of the meal pattern.
  • Family-style meals provide an opportunity for centers and DCH providers to enhance the meal service by encouraging a pleasant eating environment that supports and promotes mealtime as a learning experience.
  • This approach allows children to identify foods and be introduced to new foods, flavors, and menus. It also fosters a positive attitude toward nutritious foods, sharing food in a group eating situation, and good eating habits.

Meals served to supervising adults are not reimbursable.

Offer versus Serve

Offer versus serve (OVS) is an option that may be used by the following centers:

  • ADC Centers
  • ARA Centers
  • SFAs may utilize OVS for their SA program for children ages five and up if they serve meals prepared by an SFA and utilize the NSLP meal pattern
  • Agencies that are vended by an SFA may use OVS, but only for children ages five and up, and only when they utilize the NSLP meal pattern

OVS applies only to breakfast, lunch, or supper meals. It is not applicable to snacks. The price of the reimbursable meal is not affected by this method.

The food components that may be declined differ between the NSLP and CACFP meal patterns. Agencies must adhere to OVS rules as they pertain to the specific meal pattern. For guidance on the requirements of OVS under the CACFP meal pattern, please refer to USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 05-2017: OVS and Family Style Meals in the CACFP located on the USDA CACFP Policy Web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Charges for Meals

If an agency includes the cost of meals served to participants in the general tuition charge, the agency operates a nonpricing program. Alternatively, if an agency charges a meal fee that is separate from the tuition fee, the agency operates a pricing program.

Both program types may participate in the CACFP; however, agencies that operate a pricing program must meet the following conditions:

  • Use the actual count claiming method. Refer to Section 5.1 for more information.
  • Submit and receive approval for Form ID CACFP 85: Policy Statement for Pricing Programs which is located in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS.

Meal Times and Spacing

The NSD strongly encourages agencies to serve each meal during the part of the day that is considered appropriate and conventional for each meal served. The NSD recommends that agencies serve meals within the ranges listed below:

Breakfast: no later than 9:00 a.m.

Lunch: 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Supper: 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

SA centers may claim up to two meals and one snack or two snacks and one meal, per child, per day. SA centers may serve breakfast, snack, and supper while school is in session. They may be eligible to serve lunches to enrolled children during periods of school vacation, including weekends and holidays, and to children attending schools which do not offer a lunch program.

When an agency serves a snack between meals, a minimum of two hours must elapse between the beginning of one service and the beginning of the next (i.e., between the beginning of breakfast and the beginning of a morning snack). However, when snacks are not served between meals, a minimum of three hours must elapse between the beginning of one meal and the next. Each infant up to one year of age must be served at a time consistent with the meal schedule to which he or she is best suited.

In some cases, agencies may serve meals and snacks to multiple sets of children throughout the day. If this is the case, the agency must note that they have shifts of care on their CNIPS application. For further guidance, please contact your CACFP Specialist. A list of program specialists by county can be found on the CDE CACFP Contact Web page.

Reference: 7 CFR, sections 226.20(k), 226.20(p), 226.20(q), and 226.23(e); MB CACFP-06-2014 Streamlining Child and Adult Care Food Program At-risk Afterschool Meal Participation for School Food Authorities; USDA Policy Memo CACFP 05-2017 Offer versus Serve and Family Style Meals in the CACFP

Questions:   Kayla Christensen | kchristensen@cde.ca.gov | 916-324-6153
Last Reviewed: Friday, June 12, 2020
Related Content
  • CACFP Administrative Manual
    A guide to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) critical compliance standards for centers and day care home (DCH) sponsors.
  • CACFP Eligibility, Guidance, Manuals, & Resources
    The most recent child care center, day care home, and adult day care sponsor eligibility materials, guidance, manuals, and resources needed for proper administration of the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • CACFP Manual Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms
    Child and Adult Care Food Program Administrative Manual Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms.
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
    This web page includes background information, steps on how to apply, the Administrative Manual, meal pattern requirements, claiming information, policy guidance, compliance, trainings, resources, and contacts for program operators.
  • How to Apply to the CACFP
    Information on how to begin the application process for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Trending in Nutrition
No Trending items
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • New Off-Site Monitoring Best Practices Fact Sheets (added 03-Dec-2020)
    California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division is pleased to share eight best practices fact sheets for conducting off-site monitoring of Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Now in Spanish: Multicultural Child Care Recipes (added 03-Dec-2020)
    The California Department of Education is pleased to inform you that the following resource from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition (TN) is now available in Spanish.
  • CDFA Seeking Public Comment on Farm to School RFA (added 30-Nov-2020)
    The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork (F2F) is now seeking public comments regarding the 2021 Farm to School (F2S) Incubator Grant Program’s Request for Applications (RFA).
  • USDA Proposed Rule on Meal Flexibilities (added 30-Nov-2020)
    On November 24, 2020 the federal code of regulations was updated to restore the 2012 meal pattern guidelines and the USDA announced a proposed rule to reinstate those meal pattern flexibilities that were just vacated.
  • Tip Sheet: CACFP Meal Service During COVID-19 (added 24-Nov-2020)
    The California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division has created a new tip sheet to assist Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Operators who are conducting meal service during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • Use of FRPM Data for Funding Purposes 2020–21 (added 24-Nov-2020)
    This letter provides guidance to Local Education Agencies on the use of Free and Reduced-Price Meal (FRPM) applications for meal eligibility and funding purposes during the 2020–21 school year.
  • FRMP Requirements School Year 2020–21 (added 24-Nov-2020)
    Attachment to the Use of FRPM Data for Funding Purposes letter. Provides requirements for collecting free and reduced-price meal eligibility data used to determine supplemental and concentration grant funding based on meal program type.
  • COVID-19 Required Reporting CNP Assessment (added 20-Nov-2020)
    The USDA requires assessment information on the effectiveness of the waivers in providing improved services to program participants. The CDE NSD is requiring that program operators complete the CDE COVID-19 CNP Waivers Assessment survey.
  • 2020–21 CACFP Mandatory Training (added 20-Nov-2020)
    Announcement for the 2020–21 Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Mandatory Training.
  • Annual Sponsor Verification Report for 2020–21 (added 20-Nov-2020)
    On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended the School Food Authority (SFA) deadline to complete verification to February 28, 2021.