New Meal Pattern Guidelines for CACFP

On April 25, 2016, the Food and Nutrition Service published the final rule “Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” to update the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal patterns in accordance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The new CACFP meal patterns increase the consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, allow for more nutritious substitutions, and reduce the consumption of added sugars and saturated fats. The updated standards also take cost and practicality into consideration. These improvements are expected to enhance the quality of meals served to young children.

New Child Care Age Groups

The new CACFP regulations establishes early education age groups as infant-5 months, 6-11 months, 1-2 year olds, and 3-5 year olds.

Deadline: October 1, 2017

Early care and education programs have until October 1, 2017 to be in compliance with new CACFP Meal Pattern Revisions. Make sure your menus and procurement reflect these changes.

Self-Assessment

Take the New CACFP Meal Pattern Self-Assessment and see how your program is measuring up to the new standards.

New Meal Patterns and Related Resources

Infant Meal Patterns/Breastfeeding

  • Solid foods are allowed when developmentally appropriate for the infant
  • Requires whole vegetables and fruits to be served at snack for infants 6-11 months of age
  • Eliminates fruit juice from the infant meal pattern
  • Ready-to-eat cereals can be served as a grain at snack for infants 6-11 months of age
  • Cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt are allowable meat alternates for infants 6-11 months of age
  • Reimburses providers for meals when the mother directly breastfeeds her infant at the center or daycare home, for infants birth through 11 months of age

Resources:

Vegetables, Fruits & Juice

  • Establishes a separate vegetable component and a separate fruit component at lunch, supper, and snack
  • Allows two vegetables at lunch and supper
  • Limits the service of fruit juice or vegetable juice to one serving per day for children 1 year old and older

Grains

  • Requires breakfast cereals to contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce. (Starting October 1, 2019, ounce equivalents are used to determine the quantity of credible grain.)
  • Meat and meat alternates can be served in place of the entire grains requirement at breakfast a maximum of three times per week
  • At least one serving of grains per day should be whole grain-rich
  • Disallows grain-based desserts from counting towards the grains requirement

Resources:

 

Meat, Meat Alternatives and Dairy

  • Meat and meat alternates can be served in place of the entire grains requirement at breakfast a maximum of three times per week
  • Tofu can be a meat alternate
  • Allows cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • Yogurt can contain no more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces
  • Whole eggs

Resources:

Milk and Other Beverages

  • 1 year old children: whole, unflavored milk
  • 2 year olds and older: low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Prohibits flavored milk for children ages 2-5
  • Drinking water should be offered to children throughout the day and available to children upon their request throughout the day
  • Non-dairy beverages can be substituted that are nutritionally equivalent to milk and meet the nutritional standards for fortification of calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, and other nutrients to levels found in cow’s milk
  • Limits the service of fruit juice or vegetable juice to one serving per day for children 1 year old and older

Food Prep and Additional Requirements

  • Prohibits frying as a way of preparing food on-site, as defined as deep fat frying
  • Restricts the use of food as a punishment or reward
  • Codifies proposed practices that must be followed when a provider or center chooses to serve meals family style

Resources and Trainings by State