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Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Questions and Answers

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PDF Icon Policy Memo (151.01 KB)
DATE:September 9, 2016
SUBJECT:Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers
TO:Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

This memorandum explains the vegetable and fruit requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and includes Questions and Answers.


The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, PL 111-296, amended section 17 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 USC 1766, to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the CACFP meal pattern requirements to make them consistent with (a) the most recent version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, (b) the most recent relevant nutrition science, and (c) appropriate authoritative scientific agency and organization recommendations. On April 25, 2016 USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the final rule, Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (81 FR 24348), to update the CACFP meal patterns in 7 CFR 226.20. This final rule updated the meal pattern requirements for centers and day care homes participating in CACFP.

This memorandum explains the vegetable and fruit requirements established in the final rule, including the requirements in the infant meal patterns and the child and adult meal patterns. CACFP centers and day care homes must comply with these requirements no later than Oct. 1, 2017. Meals that meet the current CACFP meal pattern requirements may not be disallowed until the updated meal pattern requirements take effect on Oct. 1, 2017. For information on implementing the updated meal patterns prior to the effective date, please refer to the memorandum CACFP 14-2016, Early Implementation of the new Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Pattern Requirements (

I. Infant Meal Pattern
Vegetables and Fruit

The updated CACFP infant meal pattern requires that centers and day care homes serve vegetables and fruit (cooked, mashed, or pureed, as needed to obtain the appropriate texture and consistency) at snack for infants age 6 through 11 months old, if the infant is developmentally ready to accept them. This requirement was developed in an effort to help young children establish healthy eating habits as early as possible. Recent studies have found that dietary habits are fairly established by two years of age and that a substantial proportion of infants do not consume any vegetables and fruit in a given day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends serving infants a variety of foods, including an increased amount of vegetables and fruits.


Starting Oct. 1, 2017, the updated infant CACFP meal pattern also prohibits child care centers and day care homes from providing juice to infants as part a reimbursable meal. This prohibition is consistent with the recommendations of the National Academy of Medicine and American Heart Association of no juice before the age of one.

For more information on the entire infant meal pattern, please refer to the memorandum CACFP 23-2016, Infant Feeding and Meal Pattern Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers

II. Child and Adult Meal Pattern
Separate Vegetable and Fruit Components

Vegetables and fruits prepared without added solid fats, added sugars, refined starches, and sodium are nutrient-dense foods and, according to the Dietary Guidelines, are under consumed by Americans. In the updated CACFP meal pattern, there is now a separate vegetable component and fruit component at lunch, supper, and snack. This change means children and adults are offered a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit at lunch and supper. In addition, a snack with a vegetable and fruit in the appropriate minimum serving sizes is now reimbursable. Separate vegetable and fruit components will help increase the variety of vegetables and fruits served and consumed by children and adults.

To increase flexibility in menu planning, centers and day care homes may choose to serve two vegetables at lunch and supper, rather than a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit. This means that the fruit component at lunch and supper may be substituted by an additional vegetable. The substituted vegetable must be at least the same serving size as the fruit component it replaced. To be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation that all Americans should eat a variety of vegetables, when two vegetables are served at lunch or supper, they must be two different kinds of vegetables. Please note that vegetables do not need to be from different vegetable subgroups (e.g., dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, beans and peas (legumes), or other vegetables). See the table below for examples of reimbursable lunch or supper meals featuring a fruit and a vegetable, or two vegetables, in lieu of fruit. Centers and day care homes cannot serve two fruits at lunch or supper meals under the updated meal patterns.

Along with granting the menu planner greater flexibility, allowing centers and day care homes to serve two different vegetables at lunch and supper meals will help increase children and adults’ exposure to and consumption of vegetables. The Dietary Guidelines found that few young children and adults consume the recommended amount of vegetables, while the majority of young children meet the recommended intake for fruit. Consistent with the School Breakfast Program, vegetables and fruit are combined into one component at breakfast meals. Centers and day care homes can continue to serve vegetables, fruits, or a combination of both at breakfast.


Under the updated children and adult meal patterns, fruit juice or vegetable juice may only be used to meet the vegetable or fruit requirement at one meal or snack per day. This limitation is based on the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendation that at least half of the fruits consumed per day should come from whole fruits (fresh, canned, frozen, or dried). While 100 percent juice can be part of a healthful diet, it lacks the dietary fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables and when consumed in excess can contribute to extra calories. If a center or day care home serves fruit or vegetable juice at more than one meal (including snack), the meal with the lowest reimbursement rate containing juice would be disallowed.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this information to program operators immediately. Program operators should direct any questions regarding this memorandum to the appropriate state agency. State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.

Angela Kline
Policy and Program Development Division
Child Nutrition Programs

Page updated: January 11, 2024

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.