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 individuals with disabilities through the provision of nutritious foods. In particular, child care providers have a powerful opportunity to instill healthy habits in young children that serve as a foundation for healthy choices in life.
In April 2016, USDA made the first major changes to the CACFP nutrition standards since the Program began in 1968. The updated nutrition standards went into effect on October 1, 2017. They will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives and improve the wellness of adults.
The CACFP nutrition 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. Under these standards, meals and snacks served 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.
FNS is providing a transition period for centers and day care homes implementing the updated CACFP meal patterns. During Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1, 2017- September 30, 2018), centers and day care homes found in violation of the updated meal patterns, but in compliance with the previous meal patterns, will receive technical assistance instead of fiscal action.
For more information on the transition period, please refer to SP 30-2017, CACFP 13-2017 Transition Period for Updated CACFP, Infant, Preschool Meal Patterns.
USDA provides 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.
Meal Pattern (In effect since 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 Meal Patterns
Meal Patterns Charts
Guidance and Technical Assistance
CACFP operators can utilize the following materials and resources to help them implement the CACFP meal pattern requirements:
The Meal Pattern Training tools are an assortment of engaging materials that can empower CACFP with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to implement the updated CACFP meal pattern requirements.
This handbook helps Program operators plan and prepare meals, provide opportunities for active play, and encourage children to adopt healthy behaviors.
- Feeding Infants: A Guide for Use in the Child Nutrition Programs (currently being revised to reflect new infant meal standard requirements)
The Feeding Infants Guide provides nutrition guidance on CACFP’s smallest participants, infants.
This website offers information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources.
The library is a collection of worksheets, posters, cookbooks, training tools, etc. designed by Team Nutrition for CACFP operators.
The Healthy Meals Resource System is an online information center for USDA Child Nutrition Programs.
MyPlate is an online tool that offers ideas and tips to help CACFP operators and participants develop a healthier lifestyle.