Nutrition Standards for CACFP Meals and Snacks

Centers 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.

The 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 input. The standards support the service of a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meats/meat alternative, and low-fat and fat-free dairy while minimizing added sugar and saturated fat. In addition, the standards encourage breastfeeding to align the CACFP with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

USDA provides guidance, resources, best practices, and training for CACFP operators in a variety of settings to support them in providing healthy, balanced meals and snacks to the children and adults they serve.

Nutrition Standards

Regulations and Policy Guidance

Meal Patterns Tables

Guidance and Technical Assistance

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

Team Nutrition Meal Pattern Training Tools

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

Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs

This interactive, web-based tools assists Child Nutrition Program operators with planning, purchasing, preparing and serving nutritious meals. 

Crediting Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program

The handbook is a supplementary resource to the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs and contains additional information on creditable foods served in CACFP. 

Feeding Infants in the Child and Adult Care Food Programs

This training tool reference guide covers topics such as the CACFP infant meal pattern, developmental readiness, hunger and fullness signs, handling and storing breastmilk and infant formula, and solid foods.

Team Nutrition Resource Library

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

Local Foods and Related Activities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

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


MyPlate is an online tool that offers ideas and tips to help CACFP operators, participants and families develop healthier lifestyles.

Scroll to Top