Grain-Based Desserts in the CACFP
One important revision to the meal pattern standards is the disallowance of grain-based desserts. Realizing the significant burden placed on providers if they had to calculate sugar, satured fats, and other nutritional components of each grain item they served to conclude if the item was allowable or not, USDA instead created categories to define grain-based desserts.
When the final meal pattern revision was published, sweet crackers (including graham and animal crackers), remained consistent with the School Meal Programs designation and were included under grain-based desserts. After the final ruling was published, numerous stakeholders expressed the challenge of disallowing sweet crackers due to their shelf-stable nature, appetizing, and low-cost characteristics. They were frequently served in both rural areas and At-Risk Afterschool sites due to those characteristics.
Because of the aforementioned characteristics and the lack of opportunity to provide feedback before the final rule was published, flexibility is needed. Sweet crackers (including graham and animal crackers) have been excluded from the grain-based dessert category in the new meal patterns. Graham and animal crackers are allowable components in the new meal pattern. However, you are encouraged to serve these on a limited basis due to their higher sugar content than other grain-based products.
Please keep in mind that program operators are allowed to serve grain-based desserts as an additional, non-reimbursable item. As a best practice, providers are encouraged to save both non-reimbursable grain-based desserts and sweet crackers for special occasions and celebrations.
Why It Matters
Ask any young child if they like animal and graham crackers and their response will certainly be an enthusiastic yes. Many providers in rural areas as well as those participating in the Afterschool component of the CACFP serve them as shelf-stable snacks with a reasonably low sugar content that the children in their care will enjoy.
As this memo clarified, your voice matters. We must always advocate for the children in our programs, strive to provide them the most nutritious meals within our means, and work alongside all levels of program administration to operate our programs with the greatest integrity possible.