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Communication is important with food service vendors

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Communication is important with food service vendors

More and more child and adult care centers are contracting with food service vendors or schools to prepare some or all of the meals served at their centers. Many factors contribute to the decision to contract for meals. Lack of adequate meal preparation facilities, cost and convenience are just a few of the reasons centers contract for meals.

Just because a center contracts for meals, this does not eliminate the responsibility of complying with regulations governing the Child and Adult Care Food Program. It is important for center personnel to be familiar with the meal pattern requirements of the CACFP to assure that children and adult participants are served creditable and reimbursable meals. Remember – if your contractor does not provide a creditable meal you may not claim reimbursement if the meal pattern is not met.

During compliance reviews, our staff occasionally finds contracted meals that do not meet the meal pattern requirement. Deductions are made for these meals. By being aware of the CACFP meal pattern requirements and communicating with your contractor, you can avoid these deductions. The standard food service contract provided by Nutrition Services stipulates that the contractee will NOT pay for meals that do not meet meal pattern requirements or that have been disallowed for reimbursement by state agency or federal reviewers.

Q: What should I do if the meal delivered by my contractor does not meet CACFP meal pattern requirements?

A: Notify your contact person at the food service management company/school immediately that the meal does not meet CACFP meal pattern requirements. If time allows, the contractor may be able to provide the necessary component(s) for a reimbursable meal. If the contractor is not able to provide the required component(s), your center does NOT have to pay for that meal. It’s a good idea to notify your contractor in writing of the date of the meal service and the deficiencies in the meal provided. Include a statement that the center will not pay for meals that do not meet CACFP meal pattern requirements, as per your contract. You may not claim incomplete meals for reimbursement.

Q: Can I claim the meal for reimbursement if I supplement a deficient contracted meal with foods on hand at my center?

A: Yes, if the meal pattern requirements are met for all food components. Recently a reviewer from our staff encountered a situation during a compliance review where the contractor had delivered the meal to the center, but dropped an entire tray of cornbread during the delivery. The contractor did not have enough cornbread to complete the meal. For illustration purposes, let’s say the contractor provided 75 meals that met the meal pattern requirements and 25 that did not. The center was not obligated to pay the contractor for the number of meals that were not provided by the contractor – in this example, 25. The center had several loaves of bread on hand, which were served to the children who did not receive cornbread. Therefore, all of the meals were eligible to be claimed for reimbursement.

Q: My center is in a small community. The contractor is the only viable source for meals in this town. I don’t want them to get mad at me if I say I’m not going to pay for the meals. What can I do?

A: It’s important that you and your contractor have an understanding of the federal regulations and requirements of the contract up front. Make sure that the contractor has a copy of the federal regulations which specify the meal pattern requirements , a copy of the Food Chart, and the resource book Crediting Foods in the Child and Adult Care Food Program . Contact Nutrition Services if you need additional copies of these resources. Agree to a month’s worth of menus or a set of cycle menus up front. Point out to the contractor before the contract is signed that you are not able to pay for meals that do not meet the meal pattern requirement. You may want to arrange for the contractor to supply extra bread and canned fruits and vegetables for you to have on hand as a back-up, in case a component might be overlooked and not delivered. The main thing is to make sure that you and your contractor have agreed to this in the beginning – before any potential problems may arise. Your responsibility is to provide a reimbursable meal for the participants at your center.

Q: What does the contractor have to do for CACFP paperwork?

A: The contractor must maintain records to document food production and other obligations the contractee (the center) may need to meet its CACFP responsibilities under 7 CFR 226.6(i)(5). These records must be available for inspection and/or audit by representatives of the Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. General Accounting Office and the USDA Office of Inspector General. These records must be retained for a period of three years from the date of receipt of final payment under the contract, or in cases where an audit remains unresolved, until such time as the audit is resolved. The contractor is not required to use the production records required by Nutrition Services for centers preparing their own meals.

Q: What if the contractor delivers food that is spoiled or otherwise unfit to serve?

A: By all means, do NOT serve any unwholesome foods to your participants. The center has the right to inspect and determine the quality of food delivered and reject any meals which do no comply with the requirements and specifications of the contract. The contractor shall not be paid for unauthorized menu changes, incomplete meals, meals not delivered within the specified delivery time period, meals which are spoiled or unwholesome at the time of delivery, potentially hazardous foods delivered between the temperature of 45 F – 140 F, and meals rejected because they do not comply with the specifications. The center shall notify the contractor in writing as to the number of meals rejected and the reasons for the rejection.

Q: Can the Department of Education intervene if I have problems with my contractor?

A: No. The Department of Education does not have an agreement with the contractor, only with participating institutions. It is your responsibility to resolve any problems you have with your contractor. The food service contracts may be terminated by either party upon submission to the other party of written notice at least 30 days prior to the date of termination. A copy of the termination letter must be sent to the Department of Education.

If you have specific questions regarding your food service contract, contact Nutrition Services toll free at (800) 731-2233 or (402) 471-2488 in Lincoln.

Family style meal service

Family style meal service

Instruction 783-9, Revision 2

The USDA Mountain Plains Regional Office issued a revised instruction regarding family style meal service in the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The changes in items 2 and 3 are meant to encourage, support and promote meal time as a pleasant learning experience in all child and adult care facilities and institutions. The primary changes are that participants are initially to be offered the full amounts of foods and supervising adults should continue to actively encourage full portions to participants as necessary. Adults were omitted from the instruction and it is meant to apply to both adults and children.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has long been recognized for its nutritional goals of providing nutritious meals to children and helping them establish good eating habits at a young age. Family style meal service provides a further opportunity to enhance these goals by encouraging a pleasant eating environment that will support and promote meal time as a learning experience.

Family style is a type of meal service which allows children to serve themselves from common platters of food with assistance from supervising adults setting the example. In A Planning Guide for Food Service in Child Care Centers, the chapter, “Make Meal Time a Happy Time,” provides guidance for family style meal service in the CACFP. Family style meal service encourages supervising adults to set a personal example and provide educational activities that are centered around foods. This approach allows children to identify, and be introduced to new foods, new tastes, and new menus, while developing a positive attitude toward nutritious foods, sharing in group eating situations, and developing good eating habits.

Unlike cafeteria lines, unitized meals and preset service, the family style method affords some latitude in the size of initial servings because replenishment is immediately available at each table. Even when a complete family style service is not possible or practical, it may be useful to offer a component or components in a family style manner particularly when smaller children are being served or when a new food item is being introduced. This latitude must be exercised in compliance with the following practices, at a minimum.

1) A sufficient amount of prepared food must be placed on each table to provide the full required portions (226.20) of each of the food components for all children at the table, and to accommodate supervising adult(s) if they eat with the children.

2) The family style meal service allows children to make choices in selecting foods and the size of the initial servings. Children should initially be offered the full required portion of each meal component.

3) During the course of the meal, it is the responsibility of the supervising adults to actively encourage each child to accept service of the full required portion for each food component of the meal pattern. For example, if a child initially refuses a food component, or initially does not accept the full required portion of a meal component, the supervising adult should offer the food component to the child again.

4) Institutions which use family style meal service may not claim second meals for reimbursement.

5) Meals served which follow the guidelines laid out in this instruction are eligible for reimbursement.

Apple recipes that will please the kids

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Apple recipes that will please the kids

  • 6 firm medium apples (about 2 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Core the apples and place them in a baking dish. Fill the centers with a mixture of the brown sugar and raisins. Sprinkle the apples with a mixture of the spices. Cover the bottom of the dish with water. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until tender. Serve while warm.

Alternate fillings: bananas, marshmallows, jelly, nuts or berries.

Makes 12 1/4 cup servings (1/2 apple) 



  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 6 medium apples (about 2 lbs)

Mix the first three ingredients. Core the apples. Fill the apples with the mixture. Chill for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 12 1/4 cup servings (1/2 apple) 

Apple Adventures

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Apple adventures

Taste Test:

Purchase as many kinds of apples as your budget allows. Put them out in a big bowl early in the day so the children can see them and get excited about the afternoon “Apple Adventure.”

Allow them to feel the shiny skin, to wash and polish them, compare colors and smells and choose the one each thinks will taste the best to them.

Have several staff help the children remove peels, forming long curls. Let them sample the skin; ask them what they notice about it and talk it over. A child might say something to suggest discussion about the fiber it providers, or how apple juice is made, or how many there are, etc.

As the children tire of exploring, move on to tasting. A plastic knife or wheel-shaped apple slicer/corer will allow the children to help produce samples of each variety. Children can try them with and without the skin and see how much flavor is right next to the skin (as is most of the vitamins).

Provide vanilla yogurt with a sprinkling of cinnamon and some barely warm peanut butter for dipping. Now you have a creditable snack with fruit and meat components. Add some water for drinking and for washing up afterwards.

More Fun With Apples!

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

More fun with apples!

Here are some suggestions for activities with apples.

Read books about apples.

Visit an orchard and let children pick their own apples.

Watch Johnny Appleseed, collect apple seeds, act like Johnny and plant some seeds indoors or outdoors and see if they grow.

Bob for apples in water or try to get a bite from apples hanging from the ceiling on strings tied to their stem.

Ask parents for favorite apple recipes. Include them on your menu as “Erin’s Apple Cake” etc.

Make a simple cookbook from the apple recipes.

Collect apple pictures, photograph the activities and let the children make a large collage for the parents to see.

Meal Pattern Requirements for Children Ages 1-12


Fluid Milk1/2 cup3/4 cup1 cup
Juice or fruit or vegetable1/4 cup1/2 cup1/2 cup
Grains/Breads1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1 slice*
(or 1 serving)
or cold dry cereal1/4 cup
(or 1/3 oz.)
1/3 cup
(or 1/2 oz.)
3/4 cup
(or 1 oz.)
or cooked cereal1/4 cup1/4 cup1/2 cup
SNACK select two different components from the following four components **
Fluid Milk1/2 cup1/2 cup1 cup
Juice or fruit or vegetable1/2 cup1/2 cup3/4 cup
Meat or meat alternate1/2 ounce1/2 ounce1 ounce
or yogurt2 oz
(or 1/4 cup)
2 oz
(or 1/4 cup)
4 oz
(or 1/2 cup)
or peanut or other seed or nut butters1 T1 T2 T
or egg (large)1/21/21
Grains/Breads1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1 slice*
(or 1 serving)
Fluid milk1/2 cup3/4 cup1 cup
Meat or poultry or fish 1 ounce 1 1/2 ounce 2 ounces 
or cheese1 ounce1 1/2 ounce2 ounces
or cottage cheese, cheese food, or cheese spread2 ounces
(1/4 cup)
3 ounces
(3/8 cup)
4 ounces
(1/2 cup)
or egg1/23/41
or cooked dry beans or peas1/4 cup3/8 cup1/2 cup
or peanut butter, soynut butter or nut or seed butters2 T3 T4 T
or peanuts, soynuts, tree nuts or seeds1/2 oz. = 50%3/4 oz. = 50%1 oz. = 50%
or yogurt4 oz.
(or 1/2 cup)
6 oz.
(or 3/4 cup)
8 oz.
(or 1 cup)
or an equivalent quantity of any combination of the above meat/meat alternative   
Vegetables and/or Fruits (2 or More)1/4 cup (total)1/2 cup (total)3/4 cup (total)
Grains/Breads1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1/2 slice*
(or 1/2 serving)
1 slice*
(or 1 serving)


  • Keep menu production records
  • The required amount of each food must be served
  • Use full-strength (100%) juice
* or an equivalent serving of an acceptable grains/breads such as cornbread, biscuits, rolls, muffins, etc., made of whole grain or enriched meal or flour, or a serving of cooked enriched or whole grain rice or macaroni or other pasta products. Refer to the grains/breads list for correct weights. 

** For snack, juice or yogurt may not be served when milk is served as the only other component.

Infant Meal Pattern

Meal Pattern Requirements for Infants

The newly revised infant meal pattern shown here became effective December 15, 1999.



Lunch and Supper


Birth through 3 months

4-6 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk 2,3

4-6 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

4-6 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

4 months through

7 months

4-8 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

0-3 tablespoons infant cereal1,4

4-8 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

0-3 tablespoons infant cereal1,4

0-3 tablespoons fruit and/or vegetable4

4-6 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk 2,3

8 months up to first birthday

6-8 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

2-4 tablespoons infant cereal1

1-4 tablespoons fruit and/or vegetable

6-8 fluid ounces formula1 or breast milk2,3

2-4 tablespoons infant cereal1 and/or 1-4 tablespoons meat, fish, poultry, egg yolk, or cooked dry beans or peas or 1/2 – 2 ounces cheese, or 1-4 ounces cottage cheese, cheese food or cheese spread.

1-4 tablespoons fruit and/or vegetable

2-4 fluid ounces formula1, breast milk2,3 or fruit juice5

0 – 1/2 slice bread4,6 or 0-2 crackers4,6

1 Infant formula and dry infant cereal shall be iron-fortified.

2 It is recommended that breast milk be served in place of formula from birth through 11 months.

3 For some breastfed infants who regularly consume less than the minimum amount of breast milk per feeding, a serving of less than the minimum amount of breast milk may be offered, with additional breast milk if the infant is still hungry.

4 A serving of this component shall be optional.

5 Fruit juice shall be full-strength.

6 Bread and bread alternates shall be made from whole-grain or enriched meal or flour.


Infant feeding Forms

Forms & Resource Center

Infant feeding

Infant Formula – Infant Feeding Selection Form – this is used for parents to accept/decline the formula offered by the child care center and to indicate when the child is developmentally ready for solid foods.  

Infant Production Records

Two sets of standardized infant production records are available (3 records per set, based on the age of the infant).

You may select the set that works best in your child care center .

Set One: Weekly Meal Records – Five days of meals may be recorded for an individual infant.

Set Two: Daily Meal Records – Meals served to four infants may be recorded for a full day

More information and resources about feeding infants

SFSP Program Overview

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