Meals and snacks reimbursed through CACFP must meet certain meal pattern requirements to ensure children receive complete, high-quality nutrition. New York State Department of Health provides training and assistance to help providers develop menus that meet those requirements.
Meal Pattern Requirements for Children Ages 1-18
In general, meals for children one year of age or older must include:
- Fruit or second vegetable
- Meat or a meat alternative
- 1% or fat-free milk
Snacks for this age group must include at least two of the above components, such as a vegetable and a grain, plus water, if no other beverage is provided.
View the CACFP child meal pattern and crediting handbook for more information:
Meal Pattern Requirements for Infants
Infants do not eat on a strict meal schedule and should be fed during a span of time that is consistent with the infant’s eating habits. Specific meal/snack requirements account for infants’ developmental readiness; the information below provides a general overview.
- Birth through five months
- The only creditable food is breast milk and/or iron-fortified infant formula.
- All infants in care may be claimed, whether they are fed breast milk or formula by the child care provider, or if the mom breast feeds her infant on site. Formula purchased by either the day care or the parent may be claimed.
- Meals/snacks for infants who start solids prior to six months of age can also be claimed.
- Six months to first birthday
- Breast milk and/or iron-fortified infant formula is required at all meals and snacks.
- Solid foods are required once the infant is developmentally ready to accept them. Providers should communicate with and follow the direction of parents when introducing solid foods to infants.
View the CACFP infant meal pattern and crediting handbook for more information:
As long as meals and snacks meet CACFP meal pattern requirements, providers can be flexible to meet the needs of their participants and staff. Among other options, providers may choose to:
- Serve hot or cold meals.
- Accommodate dietary needs, within meal pattern requirements.
- Create cyclical menus to repeat each month or season.
- Vend out meal preparation to a local school district or food service vendor, including another CACFP sponsor.
Meal Planning Resources
Follow the links below to view CACFP sample menus featuring creditable recipes: