Regulations & Guidance

Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern Requirements in the CACFP; Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged) Full text

Infant feeding patterns have seen significant changes in the last several decades. The revised meal pattern requirements that go into effect this Fall acknowledge the most recent and relevant nutrition science as well as the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This memo explains the new policies concerning creditable infant formula, breastfeeding (both expressed and on-site), and complimentary (solid) food introduction. Please be reminded that infant feeding is not required to be on an established schedule. Additionally, any infant in the care of a center or home operating the CACFP are considered enrolled and subject to this revised meal patterns.

Creditable Infant Formula

  • All center or home formula must include iron-fortification, which is defined as containing “1 or more milligram of iron in a quantity of product that supplies 100 kilocalories when prepared in accordance with label directions for infant consumption.”

  • No list will exist for approved formulas. Instead, use this criteria:

    • Ensure the formula is not FDA-exempt.
    • Look for “Infant Formula with Iron” on the label. It must be included.
    • Use the Nutrition Facts label to verify the formula has 1 or more milligrams of iron.
    • Infant formulas not regulated by the FDA are not reimbursable.
    • Exempt infant formulas accompanied by a medical statement signed by a licensed physician or a State recognized medical authority are allowed for disabled infants.

Parent or Guardian provided Formula or Breastmilk

  • A parent or guardian may decline the infant formula provided at the center or home.

  • Creditable infant formula or expressed breastmilk provided by the parent or guardian is reimbursable.

  • Breastfeeding an infant on-site is also reimbursable.

    • State Agencies can make breastfeeding on-site reimbursable before the full implementation date of the revised meal patterns.
    • No documentation is required for an amount a mother breastfeeds her infant on-site.
    • Once the infant begins consuming solid foods, the center or home must provide the necessary components (outlined below) for the meal to be reimbursable.

Expressed Breastmilk Storage

  • Expressed breastmilk may be stored for up to 72 hours in a refrigerator at 40F (4.4C). This has changed from the previous 48 hour standard.

Solid Foods (Complementary Foods)

  • The revised meal patterns have two infant age groups:

    • Birth through 5 months.
    • 6 months to 11 months.
    • Introduction of solid foods have been given increased flexibility and should be given around 6 months, but ideally at 6 to 8 months.
    • Around 7 to 8 months, infants should be consuming solid foods from all major food categories.
    • As a best practice, centers and homes should obtain in writing from a parent or guardian when an infant is developmentally ready to be introduced to solid foods.
    • The following guidelines should be observed when speaking with parents about solid food introduction:
      • The infant has good head control in a high chair.
      • The infant opens his or her mouth when food is within sight or when others are fed. Other signs may be observed such as reaching for food and enthusiasm during mealtimes.
      • The infant can move food from a spoon to his or her throat.
      • The infant has doubled his or her weight and weighs 13 pounds or more.

Solid Food Components for Infants – Revisions

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Infants are already required at breakfast, lunch, and supper meals for those developmentally ready (around 6 months).

  • Additionally, fruits and vegetables must be served as a snack to developmentally ready infants.

  • Juice is no longer creditable for infants.


  • Ready-to-eat cereals may be served as a snack to developmentally ready infants.

  • Align with cereal requirements for children and adults meaning no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce.

Meat and Meat Alternatives

  • Yogurt is reimbursable for older infants as a meat alternative.

    • Must contain no more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces.
    • Cheese food or cheese spread is no longer reimbursable as meat alternatives.
    • Whole eggs (not just egg yolks) are reimbursable as a meat alternative.

DHA Enriched Infant Foods

  • Reimbursable in single-component infant foods as long as they meet all other crediting requirements.

A summary of implementation dates can be found below:


Please be sure to read the extensive Question & Answers section provided in the full-text memo for further clarification of infant feeding in the revised meal patterns.

Why It Matters
Infant feeding is both complex and some of the most vital work we do as facilitators of the CACFP. The revised meal patterns reflect the very best and most recent nutrition research we are able to provide for the youngest and most vulnerable in our care. Many of these regulations are reimbursable before the implementation date. We encourage you to adopt them as soon as you are able for the smoothest transition, to correct any errors you may find along the way, and to continue to provide the very best start to a lifetime of healthy eating habits. 

Offer Versus Serve and Family Style Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged) Full Text

One component of the revised meal patterns are the extensions of Offer Versus Serve (OVS) into the adult day care and At-Risk Afterschool settings of the CACFP and Family Style Meals in the entire CACFP. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued this memo to clarify the differences between OVS and Family Style as well as provided an extensive Q&A at the end to expand on practical utilization of these two options to reduce food waste and increase program efficiency.

Offer Versus Serve


  • It is an optional component of the new meal patterns.
  • Must notify your State Agency of implementation.
  • Available only at adult day care and At-Risk Afterschool settings.
    • Does not apply for younger children because they are still forming their palate and need exposure to new foods.
    • Applies only to breakfast, lunch, and supper. Not snack.
    • May offer more than the minimum choices.
    • If you offer more than one food item for a food component, appropriate instructions or signs must be made available to assist the child or adult in choosing a reimbursable meal.
    • Ultimately will result in cost savings through reduced food waste.

Terms to Know

  • Food component – include grains, vegetables, fruits, meat/meat alternates, and milk. Must include all these food components in at least minimum amounts to qualify as a reimbursable meal.
  • Food item – a specific food within the food component.
  • Combination food – contains more than one food item from different food components that cannot be separated.

CACFP Requirements

OVS at Breakfast

  • A typical breakfast must include three food components: milk, fruits and vegetables (combined component at breakfast), and grains.
  • An OVS breakfast must include at least four food items in at least minimum serving size: milk, fruit and vegetable component, grains, and a meat/meat alternate component or an additional food item from the fruit and vegetable or grain components.
  • All food items must be different from one another (i.e. cannot serve two types of cereal in one meal).
  • Must take three out of the four food items offered.
  • If two food items make up a single component, both items must be taken to be a reimbursable component of the meal.

OVS at Lunch or Supper

  • At least one food item from each of the five food components in the required minimum serving size must be offered.
  • Remember, milk is optional for those in an adult day care setting during lunch or supper.
  • All food items must be different from one another (i.e. cannot offer both applesauce and apples)
  • Must take three food components rather than three items.
  • Those three food components are up to the child or adult.

Family Style Meals


  • Optional but available in all settings of the CACFP.
  • Consists of a shared platter of food that is passed around among participants in the program.
  • Flexibility in portions that are served.
  • Encourages a pleasant eating environment, promotes mealtime learning, and educational activities centered around food.
  • Even if the entire meal cannot be served family style, one or two components could be beneficial.


  • A minimum, sufficient amount of food must be made available.
  • Children and Adults must serve themselves with the exception of fluids.
  • May not claim second meals for reimbursements.

Key Differences in OVS and Family Style

  • Family style are self-serve and OVS are pre-portioned by provider.
  • Children and adults must be offered a minimum required serving size of each required meal component in both, in family style there is not a minimum requirement to receive reimbursement.
  • Family style meal service can be utilized in all settings within the CACFP and OVS may only be used in adult day care and At-Risk Afterschool settings.

Why It Matters
The new meal patterns offer us an opportunity to improve our programs through increased flexibility, efficiency, and nutritional effectiveness. Armed with updated nutritional knowledge and standards, the expansion of Offer Versus Serve and Family Style Meals into our CACFP programs can only strengthen our commitment to those we serve.

Value of USDA Donated Foods for Audits (Revised)

Effective Date: Currently implemented Full text

Auditing procedures can prove tricky for many program operators in child nutrition programs. This memo sought to clarify how the value of USDA Donated Food Commodities were calculated in determining the need for an audit as well as where a program fits in the various child nutrition programs. The recipient of USDA donated foods would then be evaluated based on programmatic compliance under that specific program by auditors. Currently, “any agency of State, local, or Tribal governments and nonprofit organizations that expend $750,000 or more in Federal awards in a given school or fiscal year must obtain an audit for that year.”

To fully determine your yearly expenditures, USDA Donated Foods must be included. To determine their value, follow these two steps:

  1. Determine their quantity.

    1. CSFP, TEFAP, or FDPIR distributing or recipient agencies must include all USDA donated foods distributed or used in a fiscal year as expended.

    2. NSLP, CACFP, or SFSP (or a charitable institution) recipient agencies must include all USDA donated foods receive in a fiscal year as expended.

  1. Assign value.

    1. Fair-market value (FMV) of USDA donated foods at the time of their receipt; the FMV must exclude non-food items.

    2. 1 of 3 donated food valuation methods [included in 7 CFR 250.58(e)]

      1. Cost-per-pound posted annually by USDA. Found here:

      2. Most recently published cost-per-pound price in the USDA donated foods catalog. Found in the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM).                                                

      3. Rolling average of the USDA prices (avg. cost per pound) based on each State distributing agency's USDA donated food sales orders in WBSCM.

Remember, once you choose a method for attributing value to your USDA Donated Foods, you must remain consistent throughout the fiscal year.

Why It Matters 
Keeping proper records, including financial expenditures, are a vital part of staying within compliance and promoting program integrity as a program operator in all child nutrition programs. Our children deserve the highest standard of nutrition available, and by utilizing these auditing procedures, we can help secure the healthiest future for those we serve.

Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs

Effective Date: Currently implemented Full Text 

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a new memo clarifying the increased streamlining of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the At-Risk component of the CACFP, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The new streamlining has removed the requirement that FNS Regional Offices approve weighted average calculations. Instead, an average of up to three Census Block Groups (CBGs) may be used. A reminder of current procedures for determining CEP are summarized below as well as the new procedure for utilizing CBGs.

Types of Data

  • The two types of eligibility are generally school data and census data.
  • The CEP provides an alternative method for determining eligibility in schools that have a high percentage of low-income children that can receive free meals through the NSLP.
  • Eligibility with CEP will stay effective for five years except in the case of CACFP At-Risk Afterschool meals where eligibility must be based on school data, additional paperwork showing census as well as school data must be provided.

School data

  • May be used to establish area eligibility in CACFP, SFSP, and SSO (excluding camps).
  • 50% of the student body must be eligible for free or reduced meals.
  • For the CACFP: State Agencies must coordinate with the State’s NSLP administering agency to obtain the data from a designated month (typically October) by February 15th.
  • SFSP does not require a specific month, but FNS recommends utilizing the CACFP data for the designated month.

Community Eligibility Provision

  • An individual’s school must use the identified student percentage (ISP) multiplied by a factor of 1.6. If the resulting percentage is at least 50, meal sites within the school’s attendance area are eligible.
  • Each school must utilize their own data to determine if they are eligible. If they are part of a group or districting claiming with a shared ISP, their ISP must be at least 31.25 (which equates to the 50%).
  • Other data collection information by the school may not be used to determine eligibility.
  • More information:

Census Data

  • CACFP day care homes and SFSP and SSO sites must be the most recent census data provided by the American Community Survey (ACS) annually. ACS provides estimates on annual household income levels based on sampling.
  • Sponsoring organizations in the CACFP may either use ACS census data or school data to determine area eligibility.
  • Day care homes in Tier II reimbursement may utilize annual census data to reconfirm or change their Tier, if appropriate. Once reclassified to Tier I, the change is good for 5 years. No retroactive reimbursement will be available.

Replacement of FNS Regional Office Approval with CBGs

  • CACFP day care homes and SFSP and SSO sites located in a Census Block Group (CBG) or Census Tract with 50% or more of children qualifying for the free or reduced price school meals are considered area eligible for five years. They can qualify under CACFP or SFSP.
  • If a site is adjacent to a CBG, a weighted average may be utilized with State agency approval for up to three adjacent CBGs. How it works:
    • 40% of children must be eligible for free or reduced price meals in all CBGs averaged.
    • The average of the CBG with the site as well as up to two adjacent CBGs must equal at least 50% qualifying for free or reduced price meals.
    • Census Tracts may not be combined.
    • Calculations must use the same age groups (i.e., 0-12 or 0-18 year olds) across CBGs.

Note on Other Methods to Determine SFSP Eligibility

  • May use other approved sources to determine 50% area eligibility such as:
    • Departments of Welfare
    • Zoning Commissions
    • USDA’s Rural Development Housing Authorities
    • Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Authorities
    • Local Housing Authorities

Note on sites serving to children of migrant workers

  • Sponsors must submit information obtained from a “migrant organization that certifies that the site serves the children of migrant workers.”
  • Even if non-migrant children are served, the sponsor must certify that the predominant children served are from migrant working families.
  • Must be annually re-determined.
  • More information can be found here:

Note on SFSP or SSO sites serving American Indian or Alaska Native Children

  • Area eligibility may also be determined by “submitting documentation from a Tribal authority which certifies that the proposed site is located on a Tribal reservation, on trust land, or in an Alaska Native village where 50 percent or more of the children in the defined area are eligible for free or reduced price meals.”

Accessing the data

Why It Matters
The community eligibility provision (CEP) is a powerful tool we can utilize to serve as many children as possible. With increased streamlining, our abilities to effectively administer the program, increase participation, and maintain program integrity are enhanced. The summer food gap can only be closed by our combined efforts to utilize all available tools to reach our children in need. By arming ourselves with increased knowledge on data collection and procedures, we can accurately and effectively implement these programs, assist our fellow sponsors, and watch our numbers of children served grow across all programs.

Q&A: Purchasing Goods and Services Using Cooperative Agreements, Agents, and Third-Party Services

Effective Date: Currently in effect

Full Text

Procurement of goods and services can be tricky. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) have released a new memo with two general reminders outlining the types of procurement program operators are able to use as well as how to utilize each group in compliance with Federal regulations. This is an update on a 2012 publication (SP 35-2012, Procuring Services of Purchasing Cooperatives, Group Purchasing Organizations, Group Buying Organizations, etc.)The two reminders are below. Be sure to read the extensive Q&A for additional guidance.

1. "Costs paid from the nonprofit food service account are necessary, reasonable, allocable, and otherwise allowable per 2 CFR 200.403 and the applicable cost principles in 2 CFR 200, subpart E."

2. "Procurements are conducted in a manner maximizing full and open competition consistent with Federal procurement standards in 2 CFR 200.318-.326 and in applicable Program regulations. "

Why It Matters
As sponsors, we wish to uphold the highest of program integrity and standards for the children we serve. A large part of this effort revolves around our providers attaining proper procurement of goods and services. Ultimately, we must grow our programs with both greater economy and greater access in mind for all the children in need.

Grain Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with additional compliance date of October 1, 2019 for ounce equivalent implementation) Full Text

The new meal patterns strengthen the nutrition providers can offer by incorporating the most recent dietary and nutritional research available. The updated grain requirements outline information and guidance on what constitutes whole grain-rich foods and grain-based desserts. Additionally, the new breakfast cereal sugar limit is provided.

Whole grain-rich foods are foods that contain 100% whole grains, or that contain the minimum 50% whole grain with the remaining grains being enriched. A checklist is provided in the full memo outlining the methods to ensure an item is whole grain-rich. These include checking the label to ensure whole grain is listed as the first ingredient (or second after water) or calculating by weight. Calculating by weight will only be possible if a manufacturer provides this information, or a recipe is provided and documented.

 A third method including one of two FDA statements may be used to ensure the product is whole grain-rich. These statements are as follows: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.” OR “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” Remember, to ensure compliance you must document “whole grain-rich” on your paperwork.

Please remember that no grain-based desserts can be creditable for reimbursement under the new meal patterns. The full-text provide a comprehensive list of foods classified as grain-based dessert. FNS reminds all program operators that you may still serve these grain based desserts on some occasions as an additional food item that is not reimbursable.

Breakfast cereals must contain no more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce (21.2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of dry cereal). Sponsors may utilize the WIC approved breakfast cereal list or complete a 3-step calculation if the cereal is not part of the listing. Step one is to find the serving size in grams at the top of the label and the sugars listed in the middle. Step Two is to divide the total sugars by the serving size in grams. Step Three is to look at the number you come up with and if it is equal to or less than 0.212 than the cereal is within the required sugar limit and may be creditable.

Why It Matters
The new meal patterns ensure we are serving those in our facilities with the most up-to-date nutrition while also providing the tools necessary for our centers and homes to implement these provisions as accurately as possible. Gradual implementation will not only make our children healthier but make us strengthen our programs as we work to catch common errors before implementation and ultimately learn what these new meal patterns will look like for our communities and the children we serve.

Updated Fiscal Year Reporting Timeline and Reporting Table

Effective Date: October 1, 2016 (current)  

Full Text

Reporting Timeline

Reporting Table

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a new memo updating both the reporting timeline and table for this fiscal year. The updated documents are linked below and all changes from December 2015 are italicized. The updates are a result of feedback as well as new reporting regulations.

Why It Matters
As program operators, we work together to provide the highest level of nutrition possible for those in our care. Effective, efficient, and accurate paperwork submissions throughout the year are a vital part of ensuring program integrity, growing our programs, and reaching all food insecure children in our communities.

Vegetable and Fruit Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged)

 Full Text

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has published a new memo to clarify the new meal pattern requirements regarding fruits and vegetables for infants as well as children and adults within the CACFP. Infants who are 6 months to 11 months are already given the option of fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, along with formula or breastmilk. The new meal pattern adds an additional fruit or vegetable requirement at snack and disallows juice for infants to encourage healthy eating habits.

To align with updated nutrition science and recommendations, children and adults in the CACFP must now be served a vegetable and a fruit component at both lunch and dinner. Two vegetables may also be served instead of a fruit and vegetable at lunch or dinner in an effort to increase flexibility in menu planning. Keep in mind that two fruits cannot be served at lunch or dinner. Breakfast meals will remain consistent with the School Breakfast Program and combine the fruit and vegetable component.  Additionally, a snack which includes a vegetable and fruit component in the “appropriate minimum serving size” will also be reimbursable. The chart below provides an example of menu planning for lunch and dinner with flexibility in regards to substituting fruit with two different vegetables:

Juice may only be served once a day to meet one component of a fruit or vegetable requirement. Because juice lacks dietary fiber, other forms of fruit intake are preferred (including fresh, frozen, canned, or dried).

Please be sure to check out the Q&As at the end of the memo. They are a great resource for common questions such as how to classify a tomato to how to credit food items not in the Food Buying Guide.

Why It Matters 
Increasing nutrition in those we serve is one of our primary goals as sponsors and providers in the CACFP, Utilizing the most recent and sound science to give the infants and children we serve the very best is made easier with the new meal patterns, and we should take advantage of those as quickly as we can. Implementation in small steps will yield increasingly positive nutritional results for those in our care.

Conducting Five-Day Reconciliation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Q&As

Effective Date: Currently implemented

 Full Text

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a new memo to clarify the procedure and purpose in conducting five-day reconciliations in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) during monitoring visits. Reconciliations are vital to safeguarding program integrity, but a recent recommendation by the report Reducing Paperwork in the Child and Adult Care Food Program has identified state-by-state variation regarding the overall goal of the process and how to conduct a reconciliation.

To clarify, during a review of a day care home or center, the monitor must “reconcile and ensure consistency of three critical elements - enrollment, attendance, and meal counts - for a five-day period.” The reconciliation process is meant to guard against potential errors in the claiming process that can lead to more serious concerns and potential corrective action while not placing an undue burden on providers to produce multiple sets of paperwork. Additionally, State Agencies utilize five-day reconciliations as part of their monitoring review of sponsoring organizations. Please refer to the Q&As in the full-text memo for a detailed discussion of compliance and procedures for both State Agencies and sponsoring organizations.

Why It Matters 
Serving our children within the CACFP by ensuring program integrity in day care centers and homes is vital to the continual operation of the program. By refreshing our understanding of policy and procedures relating to program operation, we can work together to make the CACFP the best it can be at all levels.

Feeding Infants and Meal Pattern Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged)

 Full Text

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has published this new memo to clarify the new meal pattern requirements for day care centers and homes who feed infants. Because infants do not eat on a preset schedule as the typical older child, meals cannot be disallowed based on meal times. FNS provides a guide within the memo on this issue. Below is a summary of the current meal pattern rules and the new requirements for infants.

It is important to note that iron-fortified formula must still be provided but there will not be a USDA provided list. To ensure the formula is reimbursable, check on the FDA Exempt Formula List first, then look for the phrase “Infant Formula with Iron,” and lastly, use the nutrition label to make sure the level of iron is at 1mg of iron or more per 100 calories. If a mother chooses to send expressed breastmilk with the infant, the acceptable refrigeration time has changed from 48 hours to 72 hours. The Q&A at the end of the memo answers many questions providers may have about the changes.

Why It Matters
Infant care is some of the most complex work we may do in our day care centers and homes. With these new meal pattern guidelines, we are now better able to care for our littlest children with the most up-to-date nutrition research available. By implementing these changes gradually, we can not only be best prepared for the official change in ruling come next year, but we can best serve those in our care now. 

Taking Food Components Offsite in the At-Risk Afterschool Component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Effective Date: Date of Issuance (August 10, 2016)

 Full Text

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) realizes that while food is designed to be
eaten onsite in the CACFP, children may benefit from being allowed to take one vegetable,
fruit, or grain item offsite to eat at some other time. Similar to the rules governing the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the AtRisk Afterschool component of the CACFP does not need to seek prior approval by State agencies but must stay in compliance with local and State health and safety codes.

Why It Matters
Our goal is to reach every child in need with nutritious food. This provision in the At-Risk Afterschool portion of the CACFP strengthens our capabilities and provides a fantastic opportunity to meet the need of a particularly vulnerable population.

Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products in the School Meal Programs and the CACFP

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation strongly encouraged)

 Full Text

Beginning October 1, 2017, child care centers and homes will be able to credit commercially prepared tofu and soy yogurt products as a meat/meat alternate component. 2.2 ounces (1/4 cup) of commercially prepared tofu, containing at least 5 grams of protein, is creditable as 1.0 ounce equivalent meat alternate. Soy yogurt products measure ½ cup (4.0 fluid ounces) as creditable to 1.0 ounce equivalent meat alternate. It is important to differentiate types of tofu for crediting. Firm, or extra firm tofu, found in many dishes from stirfrys to omelets, count. Soft or silken tofu varieties, commonly added to smoothies and baked desserts, will not count.

Why It Matters
With the inclusion of meat alternatives to the CACFP, we are able to diversify our menus, increasingly offer culturally appropriate and traditional meals, and ultimately bolster the nutritional offerings for countless children we serve.

Water Availability in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged).

 Full Text

FNS passed the final rule Child and Adult Care Food Program: Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to update the meal pattern regarding water availability in daycare centers and homes. Previously, centers and homes must have water available to children throughout the day. This rule expanded that provision to include offering water to children throughout the day. Child care centers and homes are not required to provide a water selfservice station, but must ask the children throughout the day if they would like some water. For especially young children that CACFP often serves, visual cues may be necessary. Remember, water must be made available at mealtimes but it is not reimbursable and should not be used in place of fluid milk.

Why It Matters
Adequate water intake is important to the health of all children. This rule makes hydration easier to achieve and ultimately makes our children healthier. It also has the possibility of cutting down on sugared beverages if water is offered after physical activities, hot summer days, and cold winter days when the air is drier.

Resources for Making Potable Water Available in Schools and Child Care Facilities

Effective date: October 1, 2017 (with earlier implementation encouraged).

 Full Text

Safe drinking water for children in care is of utmost importance. The vast majority of institutions incur zero to little cost to provide potable water. For those that need to have their water tested, contact your local health department agency or public water provider to locate a certified lab to test for contaminants. In that case, providers may have “allowable use of nonprofit food service account funds if the costs are determined to be reasonable, necessary, and allowable to the Federal meal programs.” Remember, nonprofit food service account funds may not be used to improve plumbing because it would add permanent value to the building and that cost should be paid for by the school district or child care facility’s general fund. Filtering systems may be allowed but primarily on a case by case basis.

Additional information
Attached to this memo are links to resources Program operators can access to learn more about safe drinking water and testing for lead and other contaminants, and to obtain additional technical assistance.

Why It Matters
Adequate water intake is important to the health of all children. This rule makes hydration easier to provide for child care centers and homes and outlines the financial steps to secure safe drinking water in all facilities.

Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the CACFP, Q&As

Effective Date: October 1, 2017, with earlier implementation strongly encouraged.

 Full Text

The new requirements for fluid milk and fluid milk substitutions reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the most relevant nutrition science available. These requirements acknowledge the various dietary needs amongst children as they move from infancy to toddlerhood to childhood as well as special dietary accommodations that require flexible, nondairy options. To ensure compliance, documentation of fat content and flavored/unflavored designations must be made on their menu. The guidelines are listed below:

Fluid Milk

  • One year old children:
    Unflavored whole milk only. Breastmilk is an allowable milk substitute at any age.
  • Two years old and older children and adults:
    Low-fat or fat-free milk, low-fat or fat-free lactose reduced milk, low-fat or fat-free lactose free milk, low-fat or fat-free buttermilk, or low-fat and fat-free acidified milk. 
  • All milk must be pasteurized fluid milk that meets State and local standards.

Flavored Milk

  • Children 1 through 5 years old cannot claim any flavored milk or flavored non-dairy beverages.
  • Children 6 years and older and adults Flavored milk and flavored non-dairy beverages may be served but they must be fat-free.

Fluid milk substitutes

  • Must be nutritionally equivalent to fluid milk.
  • Parent, guardian, adult participant, or person on behalf of an adult participant must provide a written request for a non-dairy substitute.
  • No medical statement required for equivalent non-dairy substitute.
  • A medical statement for a disability is required for a non-equivalent non-dairy substitute that does not meet the nutritional standards of fluid milk. Children 1 to 5 must be unflavored dairy or non-dairy substitute.


  • Adults only 6 oz. by weight or ¾ cup by volume may meet the fluid milk requirement once per day.

Why It Matters
Milk and non-dairy milk substitutes are a vital and common food component that assist in ensuring children and adults are gaining the most nutrition they can in any given day. The updated guidelines ensure we are serving those in our facilities with the most up-to-date nutrition while also providing the tools necessary for our centers and homes to implement these provisions as accurately as possible.

Optional Best Practices to Further Improve Nutrition in the Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Pattern

Effective Date: Optional

 Full Text

The best practices outlined below are optional and while highly encouraged,many of the recommendations are from the Dietary Guidelines and the National Academy of Medicine and not the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). Noncompliance with these practices will not result in meal dis-allowances or a serious deficiency finding. FNS applauds any and all centers and homes that go above and beyond in implementing these best practices.


A list of resources are provided at the end of the policy to assist daycare center and homes in implementing these best practices into their everyday meal service. FNS is also in the process of creating additional resources to aid in implementation of these practices.

Why It Matters
Providing access to healthy foods while in our care is a huge reason we are all
a part of the CACFP. The suggestions outlined in this policy memo may not be mandatory, but small, incremental steps towards implementation will only make our children healthier. With these best practices, we can learn from one another and increasingly provide the most nutritious foods possible to countless children across the nation every day.

Early Implementation of the Updated CACFP Meal Pattern Requirements and the NSLP and SBP Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns

Effective Date: October 1, 2017 for full implementation  

 Full Text

The new meal patterns strengthen the nutrition providers can offer by addressing the dietary needs of all individuals as well as serving increasingly diverse and culturally appropriate foods. Additionally, the second biggest benefit after an increase in nutrition is the opportunity to slowly phase in the new meal patterns by starting before the implementation date. This memo outlines not only the allowances that will be under this new meal pattern that were not allowed before, but FNS has also provided guidance for early implementation below. 

Option 1: Specific Allowances

Incremental change on individual meal pattern changes, including:

  • Reimbursing infant meals when the mother breastfeeds onsite;
  • Allowing yogurt, whole eggs, and ready-to-eat cereals under the infant meal pattern;
  • Serving meat and meat alternates in place of the entire grains component at breakfast no more than three times per week;
  • Counting tofu and soy yogurts as a meat alternate; and
  • Allowing yogurt to be used to fulfill the fluid milk requirement for adults once per day

Keep in mind, the following allowances in the updated meal patterns cannot be implemented singly without implementing the entire meal patterns (see Option 2):

  • Allowing juice to fulfill the entire vegetable component or fruit component;
  • Permitting parents and guardians to provide one meal component for participants with nondisability medical or special dietary needs; and Extending offer versus serve to atrisk afterschool programs.

Option 2: Entire Meal Patterns

State Agencies may approve a provider to implement an entire meal pattern prior to the effective date.

Implementation Steps

A State Agency must inform their Regional Office in writing prior to implementation of
Option 1 or 2. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) are currently creating training materials for State Agencies and will be providing a training in Fall 2016. FNS reminds State Agencies that they cannot disallow meals that are not compliant until October 1, 2017. State Agencies should also avoid creating additional administrative paperwork burdens for Child Nutrition Program (CNP) operators.

Why It Matters
The new meal patterns greatly enhance child nutrition by providing the tools to
attend to dietary needs, serve culturally appropriate and diverse foods, and generally increase the nutritional knowledge of all CNP operators. By gradually implementing the meal patterns, CNP operators can correct any errors during implementation, ask questions along the way, and figure out how implementation will look for their institution.

The Use of Share Tables in Child Nutrition Programs

Effective Date: Currently in effect

 Full Text

The idea of share tables to reduce food waste and improve nutrition is being
extended to the At-risk Afterschool component of the CACFP. “Share tables” are tables or stations where children can return unwanted food and beverage items in compliance with local and State health codes. These items are then available for other children. It is important to note for Child Nutrition Program (CNP) operators to claim the reimbursable meal at the point of service, even if they put one or more of their meal components onto the share table. FNS stresses the need to sit down with your local and state health agencies to ensure food safety compliance. 

Why It Matters
Share tables are tools to assist us in providing the highest level of nutrition to some of our most vulnerable children in the atrisk afterschool component of the CACFP. By working together with our local and State Agencies, we can minimize food waste and maximize nutrition.

CACFP Rates of Reimbursement 


Income Eligibility


Income Eligibility


Income Eligibility


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Taking Food Components Offsite in the AtRisk Afterschool Component of the CACFP

Crediting Tofu and Soy Yogurt Products in the School Meal Programs and the CACFP
Water Availability in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
Resources for Making Potable Water Available in Schools and Child Care Facilities
Nutrition Requirements for Fluid Milk and Fluid Milk Substitutions in the CACFP, Q&As
Optional Best Practices to Further Improve Nutrition in the Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Pattern
Early Implementation of the Updated CACFP Meal Pattern Requirements and the NSLP and SBP Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns
The Use of Share Tables in Child Nutrition Programs


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