CACFP Meal Patterns

Overview

On April 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Meal Pattern (MP) Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Final Rule . The MPs align with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, reflect evidence-based nutrition science, and include stakeholder comments to the proposed rule. The MP standards became effective October 1, 2017.

For all content related to COVID-19 in the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP), such as information about waivers, visit COVID-19 Guidance for CNPs.

The CACFP Meal Patterns

CACFP Operators participating in the CACFP, National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), including CACFP centers and day care homes (DCH), school food authorities, and SFSP sites serving children under six years of age, must comply with the CACFP MP requirements. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has provided the following reference charts describing the CACFP MP requirements for infants, children, and adults respectively.

Training

The following CACFP trainingscan be accessed on the CDSS CACFP Training web page:

  • Annual mandatory training
  • Prospective CACFP Operator training
  • Optional online training
  • Resources to in-person training

Resources

The following resources provide supplemental information for the CACFP MP. Materials include tip sheets, USDA training tools, and additional best practice resources for implementing the CACFP MP.

General Resources
Training Tools
Best Practices

General Resources

Resource Description
USDA Nutrition Standards for CACFP Meals and Snacks Includes extensive MP information, including fact sheets, the final rule, current policy, and much more.

USDA Team Nutrition (TN) Multicultural Child Care Recipes

Provides new recipes that are compliant with the CACFP MP, and includes crediting information. These recipes are culturally diverse. To accommodate all types of CACFP agencies, the recipes are portioned for family homes as well as larger agencies.

USDA CACFP: Managing Virtual Monitoring and Supply Chain Disruptions fact sheet

Provides clarification of existing flexibilities available to assist CACFP Operators in meeting the unique needs of their communities.

Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies How to Support Breastfeeding, Pumping, and Formula-Feeding Parents

This Georgetown University web page provides support and resources to families with infants on breastfeeding, pumping, and formula-feeding.

 

Training Tools

Resource Description
California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Crediting Luncheon and Processed Meats/Meat Alternates (M/MA) in the CACFP Provides guidance for crediting luncheon and other processed M/MA in the CACFP.
CDSS Serving Cheese in the CACFP Provides guidance for serving creditable cheeses in the CACFP.
CDSS Crediting Grains Using Ounce Equivalents (oz eq) Provides guidance on determining the amount of creditable grains present in a food item, product, or recipe using oz eq. Additional guidance is available in the online USDA Food Buying Guide (FBG) Grains and in the Grains Oz Eq section of the USDA CACFP Meal Pattern Training Worksheets.
CDSS Determining Whole Grain-rich (WGR) Products in the CACFP Provides guidance for identifying creditable (WGR) items in the CACFP. Additional guidance is available in the USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 09-2018, Grain Requirements in the CACFP; Questions and Answers and in the WGR section of the USDA Adding Whole Grains to Your CACFP Menu Training Worksheet on the USDA Training Worksheets web page.
CDSS Determining Creditable Grain Products in the CACFP Provides guidance on crediting grain products in the CACFP. Additional guidance is available in the USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 09-2018, Grain Requirements in the CACFP; Questions and Answers and in the Grains section of the USDA CACFP Meal Pattern Training Worksheets.
Flowchart for Determining Creditable Grains in the CACFP Provides flowcharts with guidance on how to determine if a grain product is creditable in the CACFP. Additional guidance is available in the USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 09-2018, Grain Requirements in the CACFP; Questions and Answers.
CDSS Introducing Solids to Infants in the CNPs Provides guidance on assessing an infant's developmental readiness for solid foods, engaging communications with parents or guardians about offering solids, and understanding infant eating habits for all CNP operators. Additional guidance is available in the USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 02-2018, Feeding Infants and MP Requirements in the CACFP; Questions and Answers, USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Infant Developmental Skills Job Aid, and the American Academy of Pediatrics Starting Solid Foods web page.
CDSS Serving Smoothies in the CACFP Provides smoothie recipes and guidance on crediting fruit, vegetable, milk, and yogurt smoothies served as part of reimbursable meals and snacks in the CACFP. Additional guidance is available in the USDA Policy Memorandum SP 40-2019, CACFP 17-2019, SFSP 17-2019, Smoothies Offered in CNPs, USDA Policy Memorandum CACFP 09-2017, Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the CACFP: Questions and Answers, and the CDSS MB CNP-04-2020, Smoothies Offered in the CNPs, on the CDSS CACFP Bulletins.
USDA Team Nutrition (TN) CACFP Meal Pattern Training Tools

The USDA TN developed materials for CACFP operators and sponsors to implement the CACFP MP. Some materials include:

USDA Food Buying Guide (FBG) The FBG for CNPs is now an online interactive tool. It was updated to reflect the MP. It can help with purchasing the required quantities of foods and determining the contribution each food makes toward the MP requirements.
USDA FBG Mobile App The FBG mobile app can be used to compare yield information or create a favorites list of the food items that are commonly purchased. The app is available on iOS and Android platforms.
CDSS FBG Calculator Provides the steps for using the USDA FBG Calculator to determine required quantities of foods to purchase to meet the meal pattern requirements.
USDA FBG - PDF Download The FBG is available to download and print as a PDF.
Exhibit A Grains Requirements for CNPs Chart in the Exhibit A: Grain Requirements for the CNPs tab on the USDA FBG Grains web page Provides a general guideline for crediting prepared grains items.
USDA TN Feeding Infants in the CACFP Guide web page The Feeding Infants Guide is a training tool for CACFP oOperators with infants enrolled at their child care site. The guide covers topics such as the infant meal pattern, developmental readiness, hunger and fullness signs, handling and storing breastmilk and infant formula, solid foods, and much more.
Institute of Child Nutrition Education and Training Resources for CACFP Professionals The Institute of Child Nutrition developed resources for participants in the CACFP. Some useful resources include fact sheets, posters, sample menus, and much more.
USDA CACFP Meal Pattern Training Slides The USDA CACFP meal pattern training PowerPoint slides are ready to go and can be used to train staff working with the CACFP. These training slides are designed to be interactive 30-minute trainings, and are offered on topics, such as using ounce equivalents for grains, feeding infants, menu planning, serving milk, and choosing breakfast cereals and yogurt that are lower in added sugars. These training slides are offered in English and Spanish.
USDA Mealtimes with Toddlers in the CACFP USDA mealtimes with Toddlers in the CACFP resources assist CACFP Operators in meeting meal pattern requirements and creating positive mealtime environments for children one to two years old. Resources offered in English and Spanish.
USDA CACFP Grains Ounce Equivalents Resources These USDA training resources help CACFP Operators use ounce equivalents to determine the amount of grains for meals and snacks.

Best Practices

Resource Description
USDA Team Nutrition Breastfed Babies Welcome Here! Resource The USDA TN developed downloadable materials that CACFP Operators can use to communicate ways that a child care site supports a mother’s decision to breastfeed her baby. Materials include a mother’s guide, poster, and a message graphic. The USDA TN will announce the availability of Spanish and printed versions at a later date.

Policy Guidance

CACFP Bulletins

The CDSS has published the following CACFP Bulletins related to the CACFP MP and guidance for California CACFP Operators. Additional CACFP Bulletins can be found on CDSS CACFP Bulletins.

Release Date

Subject

Reference Number

September 2020 Documentation Requirements for the CACFP CACFP-01-2020
July 2020 Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk in the CACFP CACFP-02-2020
February 2020 Smoothies Offered in Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) CNP-04-2020
September 2017 Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products in the CNPs CNP-09-2017

USDA Policy Memoranda

The USDA has issued the following policy memoranda related to the CACFP MP and they can be found on USDA FNS Documents & Resources.

Release Date

Subject

Reference Number

September 2019 Smoothies Offered in CNPs SP 40-2019, CACFP 17-2019, SFSP 17-2019
April 2019 Crediting Tempeh in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 25-2019, CACFP 12-2019, SFSP 11-2019
April 2019 Crediting Surimi Seafood in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 24-2019, CACFP 11-2019, SFSP 10-2019
August 2019 Crediting Coconut, Hominy, Corn Masa, and Masa Harina in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 34-2019, CACFP 15-2019, SFSP 15-2019
April 2019 Crediting Pasta Products Made of Vegetable Flour in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 26-2019, CACFP 13-2019, SFSP 12-2019
April 2019 Crediting Popcorn in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 23-2019, CACFP 10-2019, SFSP 09-2019
April 2019 Crediting Shelf-Stable, Dried and Semi-Dried Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Products in the CNPs USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 21-2019, CACFP 08-2019, SFSP 07-2019
April 2018 Grain Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 09-2018
October 2017 Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 02-2018
June 2017 Grain-Based Desserts in the Child and Adult Care Food Program USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 16-2017
June 2017 Flexibility for Co-Mingled Preschool Meals: Questions and Answers USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 37-2017
March 2017 Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the CACFP; Q&As USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 09-2017
March 2017 Questions and Answers on the Updated Meal Pattern Requirements for the CACFP USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 08-2017
December 2016 Offer versus Serve (OVS) and Family Style Dining in the CACFP USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 05-2017
August 2016 Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products USDA Policy Memorandum: SP 53-2016,
CACFP 21-2016
August 2016 Water Availability in the CACFP USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 20-2016
July 2016 Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the CACFP, Q&As USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 17-2016
June 2016 Optional Best Practices to Further Promote Nutrition in the CACFP Meal Pattern USDA Policy Memorandum: CACFP 15-2016

Compliance

The CDSS monitors compliance with the meal pattern during the Administrative Review (AR). ARs occur approximately every three years. The CDSS provides technical assistance when the standards are not met.

  • Meal Pattern Documentation Checklist
    The CDSS provides a checklist to determine whether program operators are meeting the CACFP meal pattern requirements for reimbursable meals and snacks. To download the meal pattern Documentation Checklist located in Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, select CACFP, applications, downloadable forms, and Form ID CACFP 89.
  • CDSS CACFP Administrative Manual
    The CDSS CACFP Administrative Manual is a guide to the CACFP critical compliance standards for centers and DCH sponsors.


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Contact us

For questions about the CACFP Meal Patterns, please contact the CDSS CACFP Branch Nutrition Team by email at CACFPMealPatterns@dss.ca.gov.


For questions about annual mandatory and prospective CACFP Operator training requirements, optional online training, and in-person training, please contact the CDSS CACFP Branch Training Team by email at CACFPTraining@dss.ca.gov.

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Last Updated: December 2021