Child Care Meal Program Nutrition Standards Updated for First Time Since 1968

Author Details

Elyse Homel Vitale

Nutrition Policy Advocate
Organization: California Food Policy Advocates

Go to California Food Policy Advocates

On January 9, 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule with new science-based nutrition standards for meals provided through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP provides reimbursements for meals and snacks served to children in child care facilities, after-school programs, and emergency shelters. Each day, an average of 475,000 children in California are benefitting from the nutrition resources provided through CACFP. 

California has more than 3 million children between the ages of 0 and 5, of which more than one in four (26.6%) live in poverty. Early childhood is a critical time of development. Nutrition habits and preferences are developed within the first five years of life. Young children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of food insecurity, with poor nutrition affecting a young child’s ability to learn and grow. CACFP is an essential component of our child care system. Not only does the program ensure young children in child care receive adequate and healthful foods, but it also supports the overall quality of child care. 

In 2010, through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, Congress required USDA to update the CACFP meal pattern and better align it with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Under the proposed rule, meals served to children in child care will include a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat. This proposal is the first major update of the CACFP meal patterns since the program’s inception in 1968. The public has 90 days to comment, with all comments due by April 15, 2015.

Due to a state law that requires all child care centers to follow the CACFP meal pattern, the proposed changes reach well beyond the 475,000 California children receiving CACFP meals each day. California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) encourages all early childhood stakeholders to comment on the proposed rule. This is a unique opportunity to suggest ideas and policies that will benefit our youngest children in California and across the nation. 

To learn more about the proposed CACFP meal pattern rule, what the changes mean for California, and how you can comment, register for the upcoming (March 5th at 1:30 PM) webinar hosted by CFPA, with presentations by the California Department of Education, the Child Care Food Program Roundtable, and University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute.