California's Farm to Child and Adult Care Food Program Initiative



The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Farm to Child and Adult Care Food Program (F2CACFP) initiative involves one or more of three elements:  

  1. Meals and snacks include locally sourced foods.  
  2. Nutrition and agriculture-based education integrated into the meal times, classroom, garden, farm visits, or other venues.  
  3. Participants have an opportunity for hands-on learning in a garden.  

F2CACFP increases participants’ acceptance and consumption of fresh meals and foster a life-long appreciation of where nutritious food comes from.  F2CACFP strengthens communities by providing local farmers with access to new markets and opportunities to connect with CACFP operators through educational programs. 


Background and History

In 1997, California was one of the first states to promote Farm to Child Nutrition Programs (F2CNPs).  The CACFP is one of the programs of the CNPs.  The California Department of Education (CDE), in partnership with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) created the California Office of Farm to Fork (COFF).  The COFF is now a statewide initiative hosted by the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork and supported by staff from Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Life Lab, the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, and regional leads throughout the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages F2CNPs.  On December 13, 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 reauthorizing the CNPs.

On July 1, 2021, the CACFP moved from the CDE to the CDSS.  Therefore, the CDSS is focusing on expanding F2CACFP efforts as part of the F2CNPs in partnership with CDE, CDFA, CDPH, among others.

Note:  The following terms are indicated next to each Farm to CACFP resource applicable with a specific CACFP program type:

  • CC – Child Care (includes Day Care Home Sponsors and homes)
  • ADC – Adult Day Care
  • ARA – At-Risk Afterschool (includes school age center)
  • ES – Emergency Shelter

Farms/Farmers' Markets

  • CDFA The California Farmer Marketplace
    Features California produce, grains, meats, and other products for sale.  The Marketplace offers farmers the opportunity to post products and connect directly with school food service to increase the amount of California-grown and produced foods on school lunch trays. (All Operators)
  • CDPH Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Farmers' Markets
    Provides a listing of all WIC Authorized Farmers’ Markets in California. (All Operators)
  • USDA Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
    Each year, the USDA Senior’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) benefits over 800,000 seniors ages 60 and older who have household incomes of not more than 185% of the federal poverty income guidelines.  It is designed to provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown produce through farmers, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and community supported agricultural programs.  The Farm Bill provides federal funding to run the program. (*ADC)

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Funding Opportunities

The following funding opportunities may be available for your program!

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CDSS Online Training Courses

CDSS offers online training courses for CACFP operators through the CDSS Bright Track web page.  See below for some courses offered.  

Course  Title Description Program Type
CDSS-181  Procurement Training for CACFP Operators  This course will define procurement and will provide an overview of the types of procurement methods, strategies for local purchasing, and purchasing from a Food Service Management Company. All Operators
CDSS-501 Enhacing Meal Appeal for CACFP: Feeding Their Senses! Learn how to examine menus and prepare meals that not only taste great, but look, smell, feel and even sound great! All Operators
CDSS-510 Spice It Up! Infusing Flavor in Your CACFP Menus  Step into the world of flavor, spices and seasonings!  Take a trip through the herb garden and around the seasoning world while learning how to incorporate herbs and spices into your CACFP menus. All Operators
CDSS-511 Seasonality and the CACFP Menu  Learn about growing seasons for different regions of the US, how to plan menus with built in flexibility for seasonality, and maintain CACFP meal pattern compliance. All Operators
CDSS-516 Healthy Food Preparation Techniques and CACFP Menu Planning  Learning how to prepare food in a healthy way can maintain optimal nutrition and increase food consumption while building lifelong healthy eating habits for children. All Operators
CDSS-519 CACFP Snacks in a Jiffy!  Learn how to provide variety in a CACFP menu, while still striving for optimal nutrition with a snack meal that requires little to no preparation. All Operators
CDSS-521 Trailblazing the Fruit and Vegetable Frontier  Discover the great nutrition fruits and vegetables provide, which are the best sources of Vitamin C and A, and how often you should plan to serve them in your menus.  Learn best practices for introducing new fruits and vegetables on your menus across all meal services, as well as innovative preparation techniques. All Operators
CDSS-552 Experiencing Food through the Five Senses  Let’s spend one hour learning about the five senses and how to pique that natural curiosity with fun and easy sensory-based food and nutrition education activities! All Operators
CDSS-584 Cheering on Healthy Eaters  Participants will learn behavioral strategies to motivate children to make healthy choices. Participants will understand how to be good role models for healthy eating and engage children in fun activities that inspire curiosity about food.  All Operators


Live Workshops

  • Life Lab Workshops (*ARA, CC, ES)
    Life Lab, a national leader in the garden-based learning movement, offers workshops for educators with the inspiration and information necessary to engage young people in gardens and on farms.  Their workshops and award-winning publications are the go-to resource for educators and families interested in engaging young people in gardens.  At the Life Lab Garden Classroom educational center in Santa Cruz and the Blooming Classroom garden in Watsonville, experiential learning is offered for people of all ages through field trips, children's camps, and teacher workshops.
  • Soil Born Farms (All Operators)
    Offers a variety of garden-based learning opportunities in Sacramento throughout the year.

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ToolKits and Guides

Resources Description Target Audience
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Farm to Child Nutrition Program (CNP)
The planning guide directs you through questions to consider when starting or growing a Farm to School (F2S) or farm to Child and Adult Care Food Program.  This planning guide should be used as a supplemental tool to the F2S Planning Toolkit.  It follows the same steps as the F2S Planning Toolkit, but in a more concise and action-oriented manner. All Operators
Center for Ecoliteracy
Understanding Food and Climate Change: An Interactive Guide
This guide uses video, photography, text, and interactive experiences to help educators, students, and advocates learn how food and climate systems interact and how personal choices can make a difference.  Ideal for grades six through twelve and general audiences.  With connections to Next Generation Science Standards and the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies themes, the guide offers activities for student research and resources for further investigation.  All Operators
National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Education Self-Assessment This self-assessment is designed to help Early Care and Education (ECE) providers and affiliates assess current farm to ECE practices and develop goals and action plans to grow farm to ECE at their site. CC

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Resources Description Target Audience
Team Nutrition (TN) Garden Resources
TN has several resources to connect nutrition education to school and early care and education gardens, local farms, and farmers markets.  They also offer evidenced-based curricula that educators can use to integrate garden-based nutrition education lessons into core educational subjects such as Math, English Language Arts, and Science.  CNPs may request free printed copies of many of these materials. All Operators
USDA SNAP-Ed Connection
Gardening is an excellent way to grow food for all ages.  Access curriculum for adults, guide on how to grow herbs and vegetables at home and more. All Operators
USDA SNAP-Ed ONIE Project Growing Vegetables from Scraps  Learn how vegetable stems, ends, and seeds can regrow into plants!  Some of the easiest vegetables to regrow are celery, green onions, lettuce, potatoes & sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes.   All Operators
USDA SNAP-Ed ONIE Project Growing Your Own Herbs Indoors  This web page shows you how your to grow your own herbs to have on hand whenever you need them.  It is also a perfect way to introduce the process of growing your own food.  All Operators
USDA SNAP-Ed Connection Sustainable Garden for Low-Income Seniors  This web page shares how Maine SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators help low-income seniors establish community gardens to access fresh produce they grew themselves.  Ongoing nutrition education provides the seniors with the knowledge and skills needed to make healthier lifestyle choices.  ADC
USDA The People’s Garden Program   This web page provides an overview of the USDA People’s Garden, how to start, success stories, webinars, gardening advice and more. All Operators
USDA Urban Toolkits and Handbooks: Agriculture Tool Kit  This toolkit lays out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations.  All Operators
Center for Ecoliteracy Whole Kids Foundation
Starting with Soil
This iPad application uses animation, interactivity, and sound effects to demonstrate how plants and animals cooperate to make the soil we need to grow healthy food.  Kids learn that soil starts with bare rock and discover how long it takes nature to make 1 inch of topsoil.  (Spoiler alert:  it takes 500 years!) Designed for students ages seven through nine and their families, Starting with Soil allows users to plant seeds, build a compost pile, drag a microscope over different organisms in soil to get a better look, and view the symbiosis at work when corn, beans, and squash are planted together, as Native Americans have done for centuries. CC, ARA, ES

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Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education — Kindergarten through Grade 12

Resources Description
The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom Teaching Resources web page The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom provides a variety of resources to teachers, after-school coordinators, and anyone educating students in grades K-12.  Resources can be downloaded or ordered at no cost.
California Department of Public Health
Harvest of the Month
Harvest of the Month features ready-to-go tools and resources that can be used in diverse applications to support healthy eating and daily physical activity.  These tools and resources can be used in a variety of settings.
Life Labs
Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education Lesson Resources
This web page houses a database for online education and curricula to teach garden-enhanced nutrition education.  There are a multitude of resources here!
University of California (UC) Davis and California Department of Education (CDE)
Nutrition to Grow On
This innovative curriculum developed by UC Davis in partnership in collaboration with the CDE and Mary Shaw Solano County Master Gardener, UC Cooperative Extension, was created for grades four through six and offers teachers a direct link between the garden and nutrition education.
CDE and Sustainable Agriculture Education
Kids Cook Farm Fresh Foods
An activity guide that links academic content standards to the real world through gardens, nutrition, cooking, recycling, and the environment.
Kiss the Ground and Life Lab
The Soil Story Curriculum
This curricular guide serves as a supplemental material for teaching middle schoolers Next Generation Science Standards.
Center for Ecoliteracy
Nourishing Students
These educational resources offer enrichment activities for kindergarten through grade five with opportunities to engage young learners in exploring the bounty of California-grown fruits and vegetables in after school, out-of-school, and summer programs.  Accompanying posters designed for display in kitchens, cafeterias, classrooms, and during after school programs offer a colorful and educational way to promote fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy eating.
Center for Ecoliteracy
Abundant California
These resources are an innovative suite of lessons designed for grades three through five that explores the phases of our food system, including growing, harvesting, seed production, processing, storing, transporting, marketing, and eating.  The suite contains 10 complete lessons, including an introduction to food systems and a focus on nine popular California crops:  grapes, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, oranges, winter squash, strawberries, asparagus, and radishes.  The lessons connect to Next Generation Science Standards, California history and social science standards, and Common Core.  They offer a variety of hands-on activities and suggestions for extended learning.

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Nutrition and Agriculture-based Education — Preschool

Resources Description
Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College
Farm to Preschool (F2P) Harvest of the Month Curriculum
This curriculum is designed for preschool-age children and features a different fruit or vegetable each month.  It teaches children where food comes from and why gardening and locally grown food is so important in our lives.
Grow It, Try It, Like It Nutrition Education Kit
This garden-themed nutrition education kit features MyPlate and introduces children to three fruits—peaches, strawberries, and cantaloupe, and three vegetables—spinach, sweet potatoes, and crookneck squash.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Farm to Childcare Curriculum Package
This curriculum package includes activity ideas and resources for implementing F2P.

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Recipes for Child Care

Resources Description Target Audience
USDA Team Nutrition (TN)
Recipes for Healthy Kids —Cookbook for Homes
This cookbook features kid-approved recipes that are low in fat, sugar, and sodium, and include dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains. (Serving size equals 6.) Day Care Homes
Recipes for Healthy Kids—Cookbook for Child Care Centers and Schools
This cookbook features recipes for children and adults that are low in fat, sugar, and sodium, and includes dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains.  (Serving size equals 25, 50, or 100.) CC, ARA, ES

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Food Safety

Online Trainings

Course Number Course Name Training Topic Target Audience
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (External Resource) Produce Safety Videos Food Safety All Operators
Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) (External Resource) Produce Safety Videos and Resources Food Safety All Operators
ICN (External Resource) Food Safety in Schools (formerly Serving It Safe) Food Safety ARA
The USDA (External Resource) Food Safety Flashes Food Safety All Operators

Additional Training Course Databases

  • The ICN Food Safety web page has a wide-range of online courses on the food safety and food allergy topics including cooling food, employee health and personal hygiene, food safety basics, food safety in child care, food safety in schools, and many more.

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Resources Description Audience
Kansas State University
Food Safety Posters
Colorful posters on topics such as hand washing, food contamination, food borne illness, and more.  Available in English and Spanish and in a variety of sizes. All Operators
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Produce Safety
Fact Sheets
Fact sheets to help expand your knowledge about specific topics related to produce safety.  Topics include storing fresh produce, preserving locally harvested produce in child care centers, schools, adult day care, handling fresh produce, and more. All Operators
USDA Produce Safety
Fact Sheets
Information sheets that contain purchasing specifications, United States grades, domestic harvest months, desirable characteristics, and product and defects for many commonly eaten fruits and vegetables. All Operators
University of California, Davis
Food Safety for CNPs Curriculum
This curriculum provides an instructor guide for teaching food safety, participant manual, PowerPoint slides, and Food Safety Jeopardy in school settings. ARA

Additional Resource Databases

  • USDA Food Safety web page provides food safety education, instruction, and technical assistance resources to support program operators.  We rely on science-based food safety research and work closely with external food safety partners to make sure that our resources are useful and reflect current knowledge.   
  • Institute of Child Nutrition Food Safety web page provides fact sheets, mini-posters, instructors manual, guide, assessments, and more.

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Food Safety on Farms

Is purchasing produce directly from a farm safe?  It all depends on the food safety practices in place at the farm.  New laws will help ensure medium to large farms comply with appropriate food safety measures.  Smaller farms can become certified to follow Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) by an independent auditor to provide reassurance that the produce is grown with food safety in mind.  Farms that are exempt from new laws, and do not have GAP certification should be able to provide you with their food safety plan.

Food Safety Modernization Act

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 which gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested, packed and processed.  The Produce Safety rule, published in 2016, was a requirement of the FSMA and established, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

The Produce Safety rule does not cover:

  • Produce grown for personal or on-farm consumption
  • Produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity
  • Produce that receives commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance (eligible for exemption)
  • Small farms with gross sales less than $25,000 annually

Farms under $500,000 in annual gross sales that sell the majority of food directly to customers are partially exempt.

Good Agricultural Practices

GAP, which includes Good Handling Practices (GHP), was formally implemented by the USDA and FDA in 2002.  GAP is a voluntary audit program designed to verify that produce is grown, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible.  There are different GAP audit protocols such as harmonized GAP, Global GAP, and Group GAP that may have slightly different requirements.  GAP auditors come from private companies, state departments of agriculture, and USDA.  For more information about the USDA GAP and GHP, visit the USDA GAP Audits web page.

Many school districts in California require GAP certification from their growers to reduce the risk of food-borne disease.  However, for some farmers, GAP certification can be a barrier due to cost. The least expensive audit is approximately $800 and is labor intensive.

Food Safety Plan

Small farms that are not GAP certified should provide you with a food safety plan.  If the grower does not have a food safety plan, they should develop one.  The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) Food Safety Plan Templates web page has a sample Food Safety Template that is easy to complete.

If you have questions regarding farms and food safety, contact Kali Feiereisel, MPH, Food Safety Specialist, CAFF, by phone at 530-756-5818 or by email at

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Policy Guidance

U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memoranda

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued the following policy memoranda related to Farm to CACFP activities for Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs).

Release Date Issued by Subject Reference number
3/13/2015 USDA Local Foods in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with Questions and Answers

CACFP operators may use CACFP funds to grow and incorporate food in a reimbursable meal and use in nutrition education activities.
CACFP 11-2015
10/9/2012 USDA Procurement Geographic Preference Q&A – Part II SP 03-2013, CACFP 02-2013, SFSP 02-2013

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Procuring Local Foods

Procuring and serving local foods to children is an integral part of a Farm to Child Nutrition Programs (CNP).  It is important to remember, however, that no matter where you purchase your food, whether from a local farmer, food hub, vendor, at a farmers market, or through a distributor, all procurement procedures must comply with federal, state, and local procurement standards.

This means:

  • Micropurchases must be distributed equally among qualified suppliers (or farmers)
  • Small purchases require competitive quotes, which can be obtained informally
  • Purchases over the small purchase threshold require the formal purchase process using an invitation for bids or request for proposals

A variety of resources are available to help you follow the correct procedures, including the following web pages:

  • Procuring Local Foods
    This USDA Community Food Systems web page includes the comprehensive guide, Procuring Local Foods in CNPs, a series of 12 local procurement videos, Fact Sheets, and USDA procurement policy memos. 
  • CDSS Procurement in the CACFP
    This web page provides an overview and priorities of the CDSS Community Procurement team, procurement resources and contact information.
  • CDSS CACFP Training
    This web page provides information for CACFP operators on required and elective training as well as additional training opportunities.

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This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.

Child and Adult Care Food Program Logo, hands holding a heart shaped apple

Contact Us

For questions about F2CACFP, contact the CDSS Team by email at

For questions regarding the California Farm to School Network, contact Nick Anicich, F2S Lead, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Office of Farm to Fork, by email at

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Last updated: August 2023