Policy Memo 132C

DOH-CACFP: Number 132C (05/09)

TO: All CACFP Center Sponsors of Child Care Centers

FROM: Lynne Oudekerk, Acting State Director, Child and Adult Care Food Program

SUBJECT: Healthy Child Meal Pattern

I. Purpose and Scope

Obesity is an epidemic in this country and in New York State. This epidemic begins in the early childhood years. Today, more than 31% of New York's preschool children are overweight or obese. Overweight pre-school children are more likely to be overweight during adolescence and adulthood. The impact of overweight and obesity includes social isolation, depression, and an increased likelihood of developing debilitating chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

Serving healthy foods to children may reduce the prevalence of overweight among children by promoting healthier life patterns that they will carry into adulthood. Children who are repeatedly introduced to healthy foods during childhood are more likely to eat those healthy foods when they are older. Your child care program can promote healthier eating by serving a variety of nutritious foods and by teaching children how to make healthy food choices.

CACFP has revised and renamed its Child Meal Pattern to reflect the important role that CACFP-participating child care programs play in serving healthy foods. Effective October 1, 2009, CACFP's Healthy Child Meal Pattern (CACFP-102) will replace the current Child Meal Pattern. Beginning on that date, all meals must meet the Healthy Child Meal Pattern in order to be eligible for meal reimbursement.

II. Background Information

The Healthy Child Meal Pattern improves meals served to young children by ensuring that children in CACFP-participating child care settings are offered a variety of nutritious meals and snacks. The changes in the Healthy Child Meal Pattern are based on research or studies that show:

  1. A child in full-time child care consumes as much as 80% of his or her daily intake of calories and nutrients while in care.
  2. Children, especially young children, rely on their parents and caregivers to create their food environments. Parents and caregivers determine what foods are available and accessible to the child, how meals are structured, and role model eating behaviors.

III. Required Child Meal Pattern Changes

  1. Milk
    • Children ages 1-5 must be served only unflavored milk.
    • For children 1-2 years of age, the milk must be whole.
    • For children 2-18 years of age, the milk must be fat-free or low-fat (1%).
    • The menu must specify the type of milk served.
  2. Vegetables/Fruits
    • No more than one serving of juice may be served per day.
  3. Grains/Breads
    • Sweet-grain products and sweet cereals may not be served at lunch or supper.
    • No more than two servings of sweet-grain products and/or sweet cereals may be served per week.
    • Sweet-grain products are specified in the Grains/Breads section of the Crediting Foods in CACFP under groups D, E, F and G. They include doughnuts, pastries, Pop-Tarts®, toaster pastries, granola bars, breakfast bars, muffins, cookies, cakes and brownies.
    • Sweet cereals are those that contain more than 6 grams of sugar per adult serving.
  4. Meat/Meat Alternates
    • Yogurt must be fat-free or low-fat and prepared without artificial sweeteners.
  5. Other
    • Water must be served with snack if neither of the two required components is a beverage. Water is not counted as a snack component.
    • The menu must specify when water is served at snack.

IV. Recommended Child Meal Pattern Changes

The following are recommendations for improvement that would further enhance the quality of meals served. They are not required and are not incorporated into the Healthy Child Meal Pattern.

  1. Milk
    • Unflavored fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk is recommended for school-age children.
  2. Vegetables/Fruits
    • Vegetables and fruits should be fresh, frozen, or canned and prepared with no added sugar, salt or fat.
    • At least one of the two servings of vegetable/fruit required at lunch and supper should be a vegetable.
    • One or more servings of vegetable/fruit per day should be high in vitamin C.
    • Three or more servings of vegetable/fruit per week should be high in vitamin A.
    • Three or more servings of vegetable/fruit per week should be fresh.
  3. Grains/Breads
    • All breads and cereals served should be whole grain. To be considered whole grain, the first ingredient listed on the nutrition label should be whole grain, not enriched.
  4. Meat/Meat Alternates
    • Meat and meat alternates (chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, fish, and/or vegetable proteins) should be lean or low-fat.
    • Meat and meat alternates should be prepared without adding extra fat.
    • No more than one serving of processed or high-fat meat should be served per week. This includes hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, fried chicken, Vienna sausages, corn dogs and/or cold cuts.
    • No more than one serving of cheese should be served per week, unless the cheese is low-fat.

V. Summary of Changes

CACFP has created the Healthy Child Meal Pattern to reflect menu improvements associated with a decreased risk of overweight, obesity, and chronic disease. Starting on October 1, 2009, CACFP programs must follow this new meal pattern in order to receive CACFP reimbursement for meals and snacks served.

Enclosure: Healthy Child Meal Pattern (CACFP-102)