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.
The 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 input. The standards support the service of a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meats/meat alternative, and low-fat and fat-free dairy while minimizing added sugar and saturated fat. In addition, the standards encourage breastfeeding to align the CACFP with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
USDA provides guidance, resources, best practices, and training for CACFP operators in a variety of settings to support them in providing healthy, balanced meals and snacks to the children and adults they serve.
- Current Regulations (7 CFR 226.20)
- CACFP: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 - Final Rule
- Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium - Final Rule
Meal Patterns Tables
- CACFP 01-2023: Creditability of Infant Formulas Imported Through the Food and Drug Administration’s 2022 Infant Formula Enforcement Discretion Policy in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 10-2022: Questions and Answers Regarding the 2022 Infant Formula Shortage in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 04 SP 04-2022: Question and Answer Guidance on the Final Rule Child Nutrition Programs: Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Effective July 1, 2022
- CACFP 17 SP 40 SFSP 17-2019: Smoothies Offered in the Child Nutrition Programs
- CACFP 09-2018: Grain Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Questions and Answers
- CACFP 02-2018: Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers
- CACFP 17-2017: Documenting Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 09-2017: Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the CACFP: Q&As
- CACFP 08-2017: Questions and Answers on the Updated Meal Pattern Requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 05-2017: Offer Versus Serve and Family Style Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 20-2016: Water Availability in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- CACFP 17-2016: Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, Questions and Answers
- CACFP 15-2016: Optional Best Practices to Further Improve Nutrition in the Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Pattern
- CACFP 13 SP 41 SFSP15-2016: The Use of Share Tables in Child Nutrition Programs
- CACFP 19 SP 42 SFSP21-2015: Service of Traditional Foods in Public Facilities
- CACFP 05-2009: Meal Disallowance Policies for Family Day Care Homes in Child and Adult Care Food Program
Guidance and Technical Assistance
CACFP operators can utilize the following materials and resources to help them implement the CACFP meal pattern requirements:
- Crediting Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- The handbook is a supplementary resource to the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs and contains additional information on creditable foods served in the CACFP.
- Crediting Tip Sheets in Child Nutrition Programs
- The crediting tip sheet series provides handy references for program operators on how to credit the five meal components in Child Nutrition Programs. Each tip sheet provides simple, easy-to-use information for one meal component.
- Feeding Infants in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- This guide is a training tool for CACFP operators with infants enrolled at their child care site. It covers topics such as the CACFP infant meal pattern, developmental readiness, hunger and fullness signs, handling and storing breastmilk and infant formula, solid foods, and more.
- Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs
- This interactive, web-based tool assists Child Nutrition Program operators with planning, purchasing, preparing, and serving nutritious meals.
- Local Foods and Related Activities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
- This website offers information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources.
- MyPlate is an online tool that offers ideas and tips to help CACFP operators, participants and families develop healthier lifestyles.
- Team Nutrition CACFP Meal Pattern Training Tools
- An assortment of engaging materials that can empower CACFP providers with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to implement the CACFP meal pattern requirements.
- Team Nutrition Resources for Child Care
- A collection of nutrition education materials, recipes, webinars, training tools, and more for CACFP operators.