Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Nutrition Standards for CACFP Meals and Snacks

Last Published: 10/18/2018

group of childrenCenters and day care homes offering meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) play a critical role in supporting the wellness, health, and development of children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities through the provision of nutritious foods. In particular, child care providers have a powerful opportunity to instill healthy habits in young children that serve as a foundation for healthy choices in life.

In April 2016, USDA made the first major changes to the CACFP nutrition standards since the Program began in 1968. The updated nutrition standards went into effect on October 1, 2017. They will help safeguard the health of children early in their lives and improve the wellness of adults.

The CACFP nutrition standards for meals and snacks served in the CACFP are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, science-based recommendations made by the National Academy of Medicine, cost and practical considerations, and stakeholder’s input. Under these standards, meals and snacks served include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. In addition, the standards encourage breastfeeding and better align the CACFP with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and with other Child Nutrition Programs.

USDA provides guidance, resources, best practices, and training for CACFP centers and day care homes to support them in providing healthy, balanced meals and snacks to the children and adults they serve.

Nutrition Standards

Meal Pattern (In effect since October 1, 2017)

The updated meal standards for the CACFP was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 25, 2016. CACFP centers and day care homes must comply with the updated meal standards by October 1, 2017.

One-Page Summaries of the Meal Patterns

Meal Patterns Charts

Guidance and Technical Assistance

CACFP operators can utilize the following materials and resources to help them implement the CACFP meal pattern requirements:

      This website offers information about CACFP policy, including additional guidance regarding the CACFP meal pattern requirements.

The Meal Pattern Training tools are an assortment of engaging materials that can empower CACFP with the knowledge, skills, and expertise to implement the updated CACFP meal pattern requirements.

This website offers information about farm to preschool efforts, including tips and resources.

The library is a collection of worksheets, posters, cookbooks, training tools, etc. designed by Team Nutrition for CACFP operators.

The Healthy Meals Resource System is an online information center for USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

MyPlate is an online tool that offers ideas and tips to help CACFP operators and participants develop a healthier lifestyle.