Centers and day care homes offering meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) play a critical role in supporting the wellness, health, and development of children, older adults, and chronically impaired disabled persons through the provision of nutritious foods. Child care providers, in particular, have a powerful opportunity to instill healthy habits in young children that serve as a foundation for healthy choices in life.
Through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, USDA made the first major changes in the CACFP meals and snacks since the Program’s inception in 1968, which will help ensure children and adults have access to healthy, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. The updated CACFP nutrition standards will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives and improve the wellness of adults.
Under the updated CACFP nutrition standards, meals and snacks served will include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. In addition, the standards encourage breastfeeding and better align the CACFP with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and with other Child Nutrition Programs.
The updated standards for meals and snacks served in the CACFP are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, science-based recommendations made by the National Academy of Medicine, cost and practical considerations, and stakeholder’s input. These improvements are expected to enhance the quality of meals served in CACFP to help young children learn healthy eating habits early on in their lives and improve the wellness of adult participants.
USDA is providing guidance, resources, best practices, and training for CACFP centers and day care homes to support them in providing healthy, balanced meals and snacks to the children and adults they serve.
Updated Meal Pattern (Required Starting October 1, 2017)
The updated meal standards for the CACFP was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 25, 2016. CACFP centers and day care homes must comply with the updated meal standards by October 1, 2017.
- Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Final Rule
-- Press Release
One-Page Summaries of the Updated Meal Standards
Updated Meal Standards Charts
Current Meal Patterns (In effect through September 30, 2017)
CACFP centers and day care homes may continue to comply with the current meal standards as they transition to the updated meal standards. However, all aspects of meals served through the CACFP must meet the updated standards no later than October 1, 2017. Information on the current meal standards can be found at the links below.
Current Meal Standards Charts
Guidance and Technical Assistance
- Using the Updated Meal Pattern to Lower Costs (English, Spanish)
- Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children
- Feeding Infants: A Guide for Use in the Child Nutrition Programs (currently being revised to reflect new infant meal standard requirements)
- Local Foods and Related Activities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- Team Nutrition Resource Library
- Healthy Meals Resource System