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Meal Pattern Minute: Reimbursement for Family Style Dining

April 26, 2024

In pre-plated meal service, Child and Adult Care Food Program providers serve the required amount of each food component on the plate, in the bowl and/or cup. Ensuring that each child receives all food components for that meal service. However, in family style meal service, the food is set out on community platters, in bowls, and in pitchers. Children are responsible for choosing what to serve on their personal service ware. What if the child doesn’t serve themselves all the food components provided at the meal service? Can their meal be reimbursable? 

Get the answer in under a minute as Isabel Ramos-Lebron, MS, RDN, LD, reveals the answer to this important question. 

Find more information about this Meal Pattern Minute question below.   

FNS Document #783-9 Rev. 2 Family Style Meal Service in the Child and Adult Care Food Program 

Unlike cafeteria lines, unitized meals, and pre-set service, the family style method affords some latitude in the size of initial servings because replenishment is immediately available at each table. Even when a complete family style service is not possible or practical, it may be useful to offer a component or components in a family style manner particularly when smaller children are being served or when a new food item is being introduced. This latitude must be exercised in compliance with the following practices, at a minimum: 

  1. A sufficient amount of prepared food must be placed on each table to provide the full required portions ($226.20) of each of the food components for all children at the table, and to accommodate supervising adult(s) if they eat with the children. 
  2. The family style meal service allows children to make choices in selecting foods and the size of the initial servings. Children should initially be offered the full required portion of each meal component. 
  3. During the course of the meal, it is the responsibility of the supervising adults to actively encourage each child to accept service of the full required portion for each food component of the meal pattern. For example, if a child initially refuses a food component, or initially does not accept the full required portion of a meal component, the supervising adult should offer the food component to the child again. 
  4. Institutions which use family style meal service may not claim second meals for reimbursement. 
  5. Meals served which follow the guidelines laid out in this Instruction are eligible for reimbursement. 


Need help calculating how much of each food component to serve at specific meal services? Review the Family Style Meal Service with Children in the Child and Adult Care Food Program Operator Booklet. This guide provides examples of how to determine how much to serve for each food component. 


Webinar: CACFP Trainers’ Circle Webinar: Family Style Meal Service With Children in the CACFP  (Coming Soon)

Watch as USDA’s Team Nutrition and explore a new, free resource to help CACFP sites start or enhance family style meal service with children at mealtime. Learn tips for preparing and supporting children, training staff, and meeting CACFP meal pattern requirements to successfully serve meals “family style.” The Nebraska Department of Education will also share how they developed and utilized tools to train child care providers on family style meal service.  


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