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Early Implementation of Meal Pattern Requirements

June 24, 2016



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 grain 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 non-disability medical or special dietary needs; and Extending offer versus serve to at-risk 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.

To learn more, check out Early Implementation of the Updated Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Pattern Requirements and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs’ Infant and Preschool Meal Patterns (CACFP 14-2016)