Skip to content

Meal Pattern Minute: Animal Crackers

November 10, 2023

In the Child and Adult Care Food Program, grain-based desserts are not creditable. However, when it comes to grain-based desserts, sometimes it is difficult to discern which foods fall under this category. Especially when it comes to certain foods like animal crackers which are categorized under sweet crackers. Are sweet crackers creditable in the CACFP? 


Listen in as Isabel Ramos-Lebron, MS, RDN, LD, answers this question in this short Meal Pattern Minute.  

Need more information about sweet crackers? Take a look at the resources below. 

  • Memo: CACFP 16-2017: Grain-Based Desserts in the Child and Adult Care Food Program 
    • In the proposed rulemaking (, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requested that commenters provide suggestions for the best way to define grain-based desserts. When stakeholders commented on grain-based desserts in the meal pattern proposed rule, the majority supported no longer allowing grain-based desserts to be part of a reimbursable meal. Commenters also offered a definition for grain-based desserts. Commenters observed that establishing limits on sugar, saturated fat, and other nutrients would require centers and day care homes to evaluate each grain item they serve against the nutrient standards. This would have greatly increased complexity and burden on CACFP operators. FNS agreed and concluded that using categories to define grain-based desserts, instead of establishing nutrient standards, is the best approach for the CACFP. Therefore, FNS adopted the definition requested by numerous commenters to use the foods denoted with a superscript 3 or 4 in Exhibit A of USDA’s “Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs.”
    • The Exhibit A that was in effect for the CACFP at the time the proposed rule was published, and which commenters recommended for defining grain-based desserts, did not identify sweet crackers (e.g., graham and animal crackers) as grain-based desserts. However, since the publication of the final rule (, FNS revised Exhibit A via memorandum CACFP 02-2017, “Grain Requirements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program; Questions and Answers”  to include sweet crackers as a grain-based dessert. This revision was made to be consistent with the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program (School Meal Programs) which identifies sweet crackers as grain-based desserts. FNS has gathered extensive feedback from stakeholders on the inclusion of sweet crackers as grain-based desserts in order to understand the primary issues with implementation and develop technical assistance resources. Stakeholder feedback shows no longer allowing sweet crackers as part of a reimbursable meal would be particularly challenging compared to other grain-based desserts. Stakeholders reported that sweet crackers are appetizing, low-cost, and shelf-stable, and are frequently served in at-risk afterschool programs and rural areas because of these attributes.
    •  In light of the above, and because stakeholders did not have an opportunity to comment on the revised Exhibit A, FNS understands some flexibility is needed. Therefore, Exhibit A has been further revised to exclude sweet crackers from being designated as a grain-based dessert in the CACFP (see Attachment 1). This revision does not change the designation of sweet crackers for the School Meal Programs’ K-12 meal pattern requirements. As a best practice, FNS encourages centers and day care homes to serve sweet crackers on a limited basis because of their higher added sugar content.
    • FNS recognizes that centers and day care homes may want to occasionally serve grain-based desserts, such as for celebrations or other special occasions. As a reminder, centers and day care homes continue to have the flexibility to serve grain-based desserts as an additional food item that is not contributing to the reimbursable meal. In addition, FNS will continue to monitor any challenges associated with grain-based desserts to determine if more guidance is needed.


Want to share this video on Facebook? Click here, and then you'll find three icons along the right side of the screen. Click on the arrow, and you'll be able to choose whether you want to share it to your feed or to a group. You can also include a short note about why this Meal Pattern Minute is so important! Click on the "Post" button when you're finished, and that's it!