USDA Announces New CACFP Meal Patterns at Conference

ORLANDO, Fla. April 22, 2016 – Today Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon announced strengthened nutrition standards for food and beverages served to young children and others in day care settings at the annual conference of the National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Sponsors Association. Young children and adults in day care will now receive meals with more whole grains, a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, and less added sugars and solid fats. The science-based standards introduced in this final rule will elevate the nutritional quality of meals and snacks provided under the CACFP to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to be consistent with the meals children receive as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).

“Research indicates that America's obesity problem starts young, with obesity rates in preschoolers more than doubling over the last three decades and one in eight preschoolers classified as obese,” said Concannon. “Since taste preference and eating habits develop early in life, CACFP could play a crucial role in the solution. This final rule marks another important step toward ensuring young children have access to the nutrition they need and develop healthy habits that will contribute to their well-being over the long term.”

The new meal patterns will improve access to healthy beverages, including low-fat and fat-free milk and water, and encourage breastfeeding for the youngest program participants. These standards reflect the nutritional improvements seen in children across the country since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

CACFP provides aid to child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the growth and development of children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. Through the CACFP, over 4 million children and nearly 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the care they receive.

This is the first major revision of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968 and will require meals and snacks provided through the CACFP to better reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the nutritional issues facing young children and adults today. These changes are a meaningful first step in improving CACFP participants’ access to nutritious foods. Since the inception of CACFP, the most prevalent nutrition-related health problems among participants have shifted from malnutrition to overconsumption, including calories, saturated fats, added sugar, and sodium.  These vulnerable populations also tend to under consume of fiber and other essential nutrients.

The new standards were carefully designed to make significant, achievable, and cost-neutral improvements to the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served through CACFP. USDA focused on incremental changes that balance the science behind the nutritional needs of the diverse CACFP participants and the practical abilities of participating centers and day care homes to implement these changes.  By setting an implementation date of October 1, 2017, the final rule provides ample lead time for centers and day care homes to learn and understand the new meal pattern standards before they are required to be in full compliance. USDA will provide in-person and online trainings and is developing new resources and training materials, such as menu planning tools, new and updated recipes, and tip sheets, to ensure successful implementation of the new nutrition standards.

This announcement is part of USDA's continued commitment to ensuring children and families have access to a healthy diet. Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. Some examples include, updated nutrition standards for school nutrition, the updated WIC package to include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, expanding the scope of the SNAP nutrition education program, and supporting an unprecedented growth in the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP and WIC benefits. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program is one of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s 15 nutrition assistance programs, which also include theNational School Lunch ProgramSummer Food Service Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net. 


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USDA.jpgProposed Meal Patterns for the Child and Adult Care Food Program




  • Revise the infant age groups from three age groups to two age groups
  • Introduce solid foods to infants beginning at 6 months of age
  • Eliminate the service of fruit juice to infants of any age
  • Allow reimbursement for infant meals when the mother directly breastfeeds her child at the child care facility
  • Require a fruit or vegetable serving in the snack meal pattern for the 6 to 11 month infant age group
  • Allow additional grain options for infant snacks


  • Separate the fruit and vegetable component for children and adults
  • Require that at least one grain serving per day, across all eating occasions, be whole grain or whole grain-rich
  • Require breakfast cereals to conform to WIC requirements
  • Prevent grain-based desserts from counting towards the grains component
  • Allow an optional meat or meat alternate to be served at breakfast in lieu of some grains
  • Allow tofu to be counted as a meat alternate
  • Allow yogurt to be used to meet the fluid milk requirement for adults only, no more than once per day
  • Disallow frying as an onsite preparation method for day care institutions and facilities
  • Add a fourth age group (13 through 18 years) to the meal pattern for children.
  • Prohibit flavored milk to children 2 through 4 years
  • Allow flavored milk to children 2 through 4 years with no more than 22 grams per 8 fluid ounces
  • Limit sugar content for yogurt to 30 grams per 6 ounce serving

survey-says.jpgThe National CACFP Sponsors Association is requesting feedback on the proposed federal regulatory changes to the meal pattern. We need your input to develop the Association’s unified response to the proposed changes. Please take two minutes to let us know what you think of the proposed regulations.Your opinion is important!  Survey

USDA.jpgJanuary 9, 2015

USDA Proposes New Science-Based Meal Patterns for Child and Adult Care Food Program

Read Proposed Rule

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule today with new science-based nutrition standards for meals provided through USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). With over 3 million children receiving meals from the CACFP each day, the proposed meal patterns will help ensure children have access to healthy, balanced meals throughout the day.  The rule will also provide older adults and adults in nonresidential daycare settings greater access to nutritious foods.

Under the proposed rule, meals served to children and adults in day care will include a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat. These changes support the ongoing efforts of numerous parents, and the many public and private organizations that serve children, to solve the current obesity crisis. Today’s proposal is the first major update of the CACFP meal patterns since the program's inception in 1968.

USDA designed meal pattern changes that would not increase cost for providers. The proposal focuses on incremental changes that reflect the science behind the nutritional needs of CACFP’s diverse participants, and are practical and achievable for the program’s varied service providers to implement.  Along with the updated meal patterns, USDA is proposing best practices as a guide for providers when choosing to take additional steps to offer high-quality and nutritious meals in their program.

“With over one in five children under the age of five being overweight or obese, the proposed improvements to the CACFP meal patterns will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives,” Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon said. “Providing children access to nutritious food early in life helps instill healthy habits that can serve as a foundation for a lifetime of healthy choices.”

Mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the proposed meal pattern updates delivered to the Federal Register today for publication next week are designed to work in concert with USDA’s school meals standards, now implemented in schools across the country. Additionally, the proposed changes support breastfeeding and improve access to healthy beverages, including water and low-fat and fat-free milk. These updated meal patterns are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, scientific recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and stakeholder input.

CACFP contributes to the nutritious foods that young children need for healthy growth, development, and wellness. Each day, the program provides millions of meals and snacks to children in their regular day care, children residing in emergency shelters, youth participating in afterschool programs, and participants in adult day care programs. While data shows childhood obesity rates are starting to level off, the proposed CACFP meal patterns are critical to creating stronger community nutrition programs and continuing successful obesity prevention efforts to help our youngest children learn to enjoy healthy foods and resolve the obesity problem.

“Not only does this program ensure nutritious meals for children,” Concannon said, “It also enables child care providers to sustain their businesses and provide affordable care to low income families.”

USDA is seeking input on the proposed rule from the public.  Those interested in reviewing the proposal and offering comments during the 90 day period are encouraged to do so once it is published at, a Web-based portal to make it easy for citizens to participate in the federal rulemaking process. All comments received will be considered carefully in finalizing the rule before it is implemented

The Child and Adult Care Food Program is one of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program. These programs touch the lives of one in four Americans each year and, taken together, comprise America’s nutrition safety net.

For more information about the proposed changes, please visit:

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