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CACFP Meal Patterns

Includes meal patterns, upcoming workshop and conference information, online courses, resources, policy guidance, compliance, frequently asked questions, and contact information for CACFP program operators.

Overview

On April 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Final Rule External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF). The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal pattern (MP) aligns with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, reflects evidence-based nutrition science, and includes stakeholder comments to the proposed rule. The MP standards became effective October 1, 2017. This web page was updated as of December 2018.

The CACFP Meal Patterns

Child Nutrition Program operators participating in the CACFP, National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), including CACFP centers and day care homes (DCH), school food authorities, and SFSP sites serving children under six years of age, must comply with the MP requirements.

The CACFP Meal Patterns

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has provided the following reference charts describing the MP requirements for infants, children, and adults respectively.

Meal Pattern Comparisons

The USDA FNS has provided the following double-sided flyers to highlight updates and improvements made to the MPs. The flyers are available in both English and Spanish.

Trainings

This section includes in-person workshops, conferences, and online training courses, as well as additional online training databases that assist program operators in implementing the MP requirements.  

In-person Workshops
Conferences
Online Courses
Additional Online Training Databases

In-person Workshops

Promoting Integrity Now Training

The Promoting Integrity Now (PIN) training is a free two-day training developed to strengthen managerial and operational practices, and provide regulatory and nutritional information to CACFP child care center staff. The two-day training covers eligibility and enrollment requirements, monitoring and training requirements, financial management, basic nutrition and child nutrition, recordkeeping, and administrative reviews.

To register for the PIN Training, visit the Fresno City College (FCC) California Professional Nutrition Education and Training Center’s (Cal-Pro-NET) PIN web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Conferences

10th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference

The 10th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference (COC) is the nation’s largest, most influential collaboration of professionals dedicated to combating pediatric obesity/overweight. Nearly 2,000 attendees from across the country are expected to attend in 2019. The conference will be held July 15–19, 2019, in Anaheim, California.

To register for the COC, visit the COC Registration web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Online Courses

Course
Number▲▼
Course Name▲▼ Training Topic▲▼ Target Audience▲▼

421

Family-style Meal Service in the CACFP

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

449

Offer versus Serve in the CACFP

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

516

Milk Requirements in the CACFP for Providers

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

516sp

Milk Requirements in the CACFP for Providers, Spanish (Requisitos De La Leche En El CACFP Para Proveedores)

Planificación de menús

Proveedores del CACFP

714

The Child Meal Pattern in the CACFP

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

813

The Infant Meal Pattern in the CACFP

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

847

Milk Requirements in the CACFP for Centers

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

863

The Adult Meal Pattern in the CACFP

Menu Planning

CACFP centers and family child care home providers

Additional Online Training Databases

To find additional online training databases, visit:

CDE, USDA, and Institute of Child Nutrition Resources

The following resources provide supplemental information for the CACFP MP. Materials include MP comparison charts and summaries of best practices.

CDE Resources

Child Nutrition Course Catalog
This CDE web page provides online training courses for program operators participating in the CNPs to assist with professional standards requirements, professional development, and compliance needs. The online courses are grouped by program and organized by the key areas of nutrition, operations, administration, and communication and marketing.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Resources

USDA Nutrition Standards for CACFP Meals and Snacks External link opens in new window or tab.
This web page includes extensive MP information, including fact sheets, charts comparing the previous MP and the current MP, the final rule, current policy, and much more.

Meal Pattern Comparison Chart for the Child Nutrition Programs External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Compares MP requirements for CACFP, School Meal Programs, Kindergarten through grade twelve, Afterschool Snack, and Summer Food Service Program.

The USDA FNS has provided the following double-sided flyers describing best practices for the CACFP MP and using the MP to lower food costs:

CACFP Recipes External link opens in new window or tab.
The USDA Mixing Bowl developed new recipes that are compliant with the CACFP MP, which includes crediting information. These recipes are culturally diverse! To accommodate all types of CACFP agencies, the recipes are portioned for family homes as well as larger agencies.

USDA Team Nutrition CACFP Meal Pattern Training Tools External link opens in new window or tab.
The USDA TN developed materials for CACFP operators and sponsors to implement the CACFP MP. Some materials include:

Food Buying Guide External link opens in new window or tab.
The USDA Food Buying Guide (FBG) for CNPs is now an online interactive tool. It has been updated to reflect the MP. It can help with purchasing the required quantities of foods, and determine the contribution each food makes toward the MP requirements.

  • Food Buying Guide Mobile App External link opens in new window or tab.
    The USDA developed a mobile app for the FBG. The FBG is now within the reach of your fingertips. Use it to compare yield information or create a favorites list of the food items that are commonly purchased. The app is available on iOS and Android platforms.

  • Food Buying Guide - PDF External link opens in new window or tab.
    The USDA FBG is available to download and/or print as a PDF.

Institute of Child Nutrition

Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) - Education and Training Resources External link opens in new window or tab.
The ICN developed resources for participants in the CACFP. Some useful resources include fact sheets, posters, sample menus, and much more.

Policy Guidance

The USDA has issued the following policy memoranda related to the CACFP MP. You can find the policy memoranda on the USDA CACFP Policy web page External link opens in new window or tab.. Below is a brief summary of each memorandum and related CDE Management Bulletins, if applicable.

Release Date

Issuing Agency

Subject

Reference Number

October 2018 CDE Documentation Requirements for the CACFP Meal Patterns
CDE Management Bulletin: CACFP 02-2018
April 2018 USDA Grain Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 09-2018
October 2017 USDA Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 02-2018
October 2017 USDA Updated Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns in NSLP and SBP; Q&As External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 01-2018
June 2017 USDA Grain-Based Desserts in the Child and Adult Care Food Program External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 16-2017
June 2017 USDA Flexibility for Co-Mingled Preschool Meals: Questions and Answers External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 37-2017
September 2017 CDE Updated CACFP Meal Pattern Requirements CDE Management Bulletin: CNP-06-2017
May 2017 USDA Transition Period for Updated CACFP, Infant, Preschool Meal Patterns External link opens in new window or tab.

USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 30-2017,
CACFP13-2017

March 2017 USDA Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the CACFP; Q&As External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 09-2017
March 2017 USDA Questions and Answers on the Updated Meal Pattern Requirements for the CACFP External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 08-2017
December 2016 USDA Offer versus Serve (OVS) and Family Style Dining in the CACFP External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 05-2017
August 2016 USDA Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 53-2016,
CACFP 21-2016
September 2017 CDE Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products in the Child Nutrition Programs CDE Management Bulletin CNP-09-2017
August 2016 USDA Water Availability in the CACFP External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 20-2016
July 2016 USDA Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the CACFP, Q&As External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 17-2016
September 2017 CDE Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the CACFP CDE Management Bulletin: CACFP-09-2017
June 2016 USDA Optional Best Practices to Further Promote Nutrition in the CACFP Meal Pattern External link opens in new window or tab. USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 15-2016

 

Compliance

The CDE monitors compliance with the meal pattern during the Administrative Review (AR). ARs occur approximately every three years. The CDE provides technical assistance when the standards are not met.

  • Meal Pattern Documentation Checklist
    The CDE provides a checklist to determine whether program operators are meeting the CACFP meal pattern requirements for reimbursable meals and snacks. To download the meal pattern Documentation Checklist located in Child Nutrition Information and Payment System External link opens in new window or tab. , select CACFP, applications, downloadable forms, and Form ID CACFP 89.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: When submitting menus for review, do centers and day care homes (DCH) need to document which grain foods are whole grain-rich (WGR)?

Answer: Yes, starting October 1, 2017, centers and DCH must document when a food is WGR on their menu and may do this by using terms such as whole grain-rich, WGR, whole wheat, or simply listing a whole grain. For example, a menu may say: peanut butter and jelly sandwich on WGR bread, whole wheat pasta and chicken, or brown rice and vegetables. Common and usual names for whole grains that are helpful to know and can be used to identify WGR foods on menus are:

  • The word whole listed before a grain, such as whole wheat or whole corn;

  • The words berries and groats are used to designate a whole grain, such as wheat berries or oat groats;

  • Rolled oats and oatmeal (including old fashioned, quick cooking, and instant oatmeal); and

  • Other whole grain foods that do not use the word whole in their description, such as brown rice, brown rice flour, wild rice, quinoa, millet, triticale, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, and sorghum.

  • It is the responsibility of the sponsor to check labels and product information to ensure that the WGR items being served meet the WGR criteria presented in this memorandum. The State agency will review documentation during the administrative review.

Question: If a DCH serves breakfast and snack and a grain is served at both breakfast and snack, but neither of the grains are WGR, which meal is disallowed?

Answer: The snack would be disallowed. This is because the snack is the meal with the lowest reimbursement rate that contained a grain. Conversely, if a grain was not served at snack and the grain at breakfast is not WGR, then the breakfast meal would be disallowed. In that situation, the breakfast meal is the meal with the lowest reimbursement rate that contained a grain.

Question: Can a center or DCH rely on the Nutrition Facts label alone to evaluate a meat alternate, such as a soy burger or tofu sausage?

Answer: When serving processed tofu products (such as links and sausages made from tofu), as meat alternates in a reimbursable meal, the tofu must contain the required 5 grams of protein per 2.2 ounces by weight or ¼ cup by volume. However, the protein content of the additional ingredients in the processed tofu product is also included on the Nutrition Facts label. Therefore, the Nutrition Facts label is not sufficient documentation to indicate that a meat alternate like a soy burger or tofu sausage meets the protein requirement. This information would need to be obtained from the manufacturer.

Question: With separate vegetable and fruit components at lunch, supper, and snack in the updated CACFP MPs, how do food items that are mixtures of vegetables and fruit, such as a carrot-raisin salad, credit?

Answer: Food items that are mixtures of vegetables and fruits, such as a carrot-raisin salad, may credit towards both the vegetable component and the fruit component if they contain at least ⅛ cup vegetable and ⅛ cup fruit per serving that are easily identifiable. For example, a carrot-raisin salad served to 6-year-olds that contains ½ cup carrots and  ⅛ cup raisins (credits as ¼ cup fruit) meets the full vegetable component and the full fruit component.

Similarly, vegetable mixtures may count towards the vegetable component and fruit component at lunch and supper if they contain at least ⅛ cup of two different kinds of vegetables. This is because a vegetable can replace the fruit component at lunch and supper meals. For example, a center serves 6-year-old children ½ cup roasted broccoli and ¼ cup roasted cauliflower mixed together. The cauliflower is replacing the fruit component and meets the minimum serving size required for the fruit component for children 6-12 years of age. However, if the quantities of the different vegetables are not known, such as frozen carrots and peas, the vegetable mixture counts as one serving of vegetables and cannot count towards the fruit component. Another vegetable or fruit would need to be served to fulfill the fruit component.

Question: For adult meals, can yogurt be served in place of milk at multiple meals in one day if the center uses offer versus serve (OVS)?

Answer: Regardless of the type of meal service used, an adult day care center can only serve yogurt in place of fluid milk once per day. The yogurt limitation applies to the served meals, not what the adult participant selects or consumes. It is important to remember that yogurt cannot be counted towards the fluid milk component and the meat alternate component during the same meal. However, yogurt may be served in place of fluid milk at one meal and served as a meat alternate in another meal on the same day.

Question: If an at-risk afterschool center only serves supper and chooses to use OVS, do all of the grains offered have to be WGR?

Answer: Yes. If an at-risk afterschool center or adult day care center only serves one meal per day and chooses to use OVS, all the grain items offered must be WGR. While OVS allows a variety of food items from one component to be served, a center that only serves one meal per day cannot offer one WGR grain and one enriched grain. This ensures greater consumption of whole grains if a child or adult chooses to take a grain item.

Question: If one-year-old and two-year-old children sit together for the same meal, must they be served different types of milk? 

Answer: Yes, starting October 1, 2017, children two years of age and older must be served unflavored, low-fat or unflavored, fat-free milk and children one year of age must be served unflavored, whole milk. The fluid milk requirements are based on age to ensure that children are receiving the nutrients they need for growth and development. Centers and DCH must ensure that children of various ages seated together receive the appropriate type of milk.

Question: If a center serves a morning snack to one group of children and an afternoon snack to a separate, different group of children, can juice be served at both of those snack services?

Answer: No. The limit on juice (at no more than one meal or snack per day) applies to the center or DCH, not to each individual child or adult participant. Therefore, if a center or DCH serves two different meals to two different groups of children or adults, only one meal may contain juice.

Question: If a center serves one meal, such as lunch, in two shifts to two different groups of children, can juice be served at both meals?

Answer: Yes. Juice must only be used to meet the vegetable component or fruit component at one meal or snack per day. In this situation, the center is using juice to meet the vegetable component or fruit component at one meal. However, in the question above, the center used juice to meet the vegetable component or fruit component at two distinct snacks and that is not allowed under the updated MPs.

Question: If a mother breastfeeds her 13-month-old, or older, child at the center or DCH, is the meal reimbursable?

Answer: Yes. Breastmilk is an allowable substitute for fluid milk for children of any age. Therefore, if a mother chooses to breastfeed her infant past 1 year of age, she may breastfeed the child on-site or provide expressed breastmilk and the center or DCH may claim reimbursement for those meals.

Question: If an infant is just starting to be introduced to solid foods, such as infant cereal, does the center or DCH have to serve that solid food at every meal where that component is required?

Answer: It depends. Solid foods are introduced gradually, which means that it may be appropriate to serve the solid food only once per day and then gradually increase the number of feedings per day. The infant does not need to be offered a solid food component that is part of every MP, such as vegetables and fruit, until the infant has established a tolerance for that solid food component at multiple feedings per day. It is important to remember that the quantity of food an infant consumes changes from feeding-to-feeding or day-to-day. Infants may want to eat less food when teething or not feeling well and more food on days when they have a very good appetite.

Question: If parents and the child care provider are in agreement that a five-month-old infant is developmentally ready to start eating some solid foods, such as applesauce, may the child care provider still claim reimbursement for those meals with solid foods?

Answer: Yes. If an infant is developmentally ready to accept solid foods prior to 6 months of age, the center or DCH may serve the solid foods and claim reimbursement for those meals. Most infants are not developmentally ready to accept solid foods until around 6 months of age; however, infants develop at different rates. Centers and DCHs should talk about the introduction of solid foods with infants’ parents or guardians and can share the signs for developmental readiness discussed in the body of this memorandum.

Question: What should a center or DCH do if they feel an infant is developmentally ready to start eating solid foods but the infant’s parents or guardians do not want the infant to be introduced to solid foods?

Answer: If a center or DCH believes that an infant is developmentally ready to start eating solid foods, they should engage in a conversation with the infant’s parents or guardians. The provider can tell the parents or guardians about the signs they have seen indicating the infant is ready to start solid foods and ask if they would like solid foods to be served while the infant is in care. Child care providers should be in constant communication with the infant’s parents or guardians about the infant’s eating habits as well as when and what solid foods should be served while the infant is in their care.

If the parent or guardian does not want their infant to be served solid foods while the infant is in care, the center or DCH should respect that decision and should not serve the infant solid foods. In this situation, as long as the center or DCH continues to serve the infant the required amount of breastmilk or iron-fortified infant formula, the meals are still reimbursable.

 

Contacts

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division CACFP team by email at NMP4CACFP@cde.ca.gov.

Follow @CDENutrition on Twitter.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | NMP4CACFP@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Monday, December 17, 2018
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