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Crediting Foods in CACFP Child Care Programs

Documents/Forms

The crediting guidance below applies to the CACFP meal patterns for children in child care centers and family day care homes.


General Crediting Guidance  |   Crediting Commercial Processed Products
Crediting Foods Prepared on Site   |    Crediting Guidance for the Meal Pattern Components
CSDE Crediting Worksheets


General Crediting Guidance for CACFP Child Care Programs

Crediting Commercial Processed Products in CACFP Child Care Programs

CACFP facilities must obtain appropriate documentation to indicate that commercial products credit toward the CACFP meal patterns. For example, to credit a commercial breaded chicken patty as the meat/meat alternates component for ages 3-5 at lunch, the manufacturer’s documentation must indicate that one serving of the product contains 1½ ounces of cooked chicken. Allowable documentation includes:

  • the original Child Nutrition (CN) label from the product carton or a photocopy or photograph of the CN label shown attached to the original product carton; or
  • a product formulation statement (PFS) signed by an official of the manufacturer stating the amount of each meal pattern component contained in one serving of the product. 

These are the only acceptable records for documenting a commercial product’s contribution to the CACFP meal patterns. Without this documentation, commercial products cannot credit toward the CACFP meal patterns.


Crediting Foods Prepared on Site in CACFP Child Care Programs

To credit foods prepared on site toward the CACFP meal patterns, CACFP facilities must maintain recipes that document the crediting information per serving. For example, to credit macaroni and cheese as the meat/meat alternates component and grains component for ages 3-5 at lunch, the CACFP facility’s recipe must indicate that each serving contains 1½ ounces of cheese and ¼ cup of whole grain-rich or enriched pasta. The CSDE strongly encourages the use of standardized recipes to ensure that menus provide the correct CACFP food components and servings. 


Crediting Guidance for the Meal Pattern Components
for CACFP Child Care Programs

The resources below provide guidance on meeting the crediting requirements for the five CACFP food components: milk; meat/meat alternates; vegetables; fruits; and grains.

Milk  |   Meat/Meat Alternates  |   Vegetables  |   Fruits  |   Grains


Milk Component for CACFP Child Care Programs

Milk must be pasteurized, meet all state and local requirements, and contain vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CACFP meal patterns require unflavored whole milk for age 1; and unflavored low-fat milk or unflavored fat-free milk for ages 2 and older. Flavored fat-free milk maybe served to ages 6 and older, however the CACFP Best Practices recommends serving only unflavored milk.

Note: The 2017 revisions to the CACFP meal patterns allowed fat-free flavored milk for ages 6 and older. In 2018, the USDA issued the final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements (83 FR 63775). This final rule allowed flavored milk to also be low-fat. However, a decision in April 2020 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland cancelled this final rule. As a result, flavored milk for ages 6 and older must be fat free until the USDA issues additional guidance.

CACFP facilities have the option to offer one or more allowable fluid milk substitutes for children without a disability. The two allowable types of milk substitutes include 1) lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk with the appropriate fat content for each age group; and 2) nondairy milk substitutes that meet the USDA’s nutrition standards for fluid milk substitutes, such as certain brands of soy milk. This substitution requires a written request from the parent or guardian indicating the medical or other special dietary need that restricts the child’s diet and requires the milk substitute. For more information, refer to the CSDE's resource, Allowable Milk Substitutes for Children without Disabilities in CACFP Child Care Programs . 

CACFP child care centers operating in public schools must also meet the state beverage requirements for milk and nondairy milk substitutes under Section 10-221q of the Connecticut General Statutes. For a list of products that comply with the federal and state requirements, refer to list 16 (milk) and list 17 (nondairy milk substitutes) on the CSDE's List of Acceptable Foods and Beverages webpage.

Meat/Meat Alternates Component for CACFP Child Care Programs

The meat/meat alternates component includes fresh and frozen meats (such as lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, and shellfish), processed meats (such as chicken nuggets, deli meats, and fish sticks), canned meats (such as chicken, tuna, and salmon), and meat alternates (such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds and their butters, beans and peas (legumes), tofu, and tempeh). The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends limiting processed meats to no more than one serving per week; and serving only lean meats, nuts, and legumes. 

The required servings for the meat/meat alternates component refer to the edible portion of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish, e.g., lean meat without bone, breading, binders, fillers, or other ingredients. Different types of meats and meat alternates require different amounts to credit as 1 ounce of the meat/meat alternates component. A 1-ounce serving of the meat/meat alternates component equals 1 ounce of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (without binders, fillers, extenders, and liquids); 1 ounce of cheese (low-fat recommended); 2 ounces of cottage or ricotta cheese, cheese food/spread, or cheese substitute (low-fat recommended); ¼ cup of cooked beans and peas (legumes); ½ large egg; 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butters; 1 ounce of nuts or seeds; 1 ounce of commercial tofu (containing at least 5 grams of protein in 2.2 ounces); 1 ounce of tempeh; 3 ounces of surimi; ½ cup of yogurt or soy yogurt (containing no more than 3.83 grams of sugar per ounce); and 1 ounce of alternate protein products (APPs). Commercial processed products require a CN label or PFS to credit. 

The minimum creditable amount is ¼ ounce. If a food item provides less than the full-required meal pattern serving, the CACFP menu must include the additional amount from other meat/meat alternates The meat/meat alternates component at lunch and supper must be served in a main dish, or in a main dish and only one other food item. 

Vegetables Component for CACFP Child Care Programs

The vegetables component includes fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, rehydrated dried vegetables (PFS required), and pasteurized 100 percent full-strength vegetable juice. Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas) credit as either vegetables or meat/meat alternates, but not both in the same meal. 

All vegetables credit based on volume except raw leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach, which credit as half the volume served, e.g., 1 cup of leafy greens credits as ½ cup of the vegetables component.

The minimum creditable amount is ⅛ cup. If a food item provides less than the full-required meal pattern serving, the CACFP menu must include the additional amount from other vegetables.

Pasteurized full-strength juice credits as either the vegetables component or fruits component at only one meal or snack per day. Juice includes fruit and vegetable juice, frozen pops made from 100 percent juice, pureed fruits and vegetables in smoothies, and juice from canned fruit in 100 percent juice.

The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends serving whole fruits (fresh, frozen, canned, and dried) more often than juice; making at least one of the two required snack components a vegetable or fruit; and providing at least one serving per week of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas (legumes), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables (see Vegetable Subgroups in the CACFP).

Fruits Component for CACFP Child Care Programs

The fruits component includes fresh fruit, frozen fruit, canned fruit, dried fruit, and pasteurized 100 percent full-strength fruit juice. Serve canned fruit in juice, water, or light syrup. The creditable serving of canned fruit in 100 percent juice may include the juice, but cannot include water or syrup. Fruits credit based on volume (cups), except dried fruits credit as twice the volume served, e.g., ¼ cup of raisins credits as ½ cup of the fruits component. 

The minimum creditable amount is ⅛ cup. If a food item provides less than the full-required meal pattern serving, the CACFP menu must include the additional amount from other vegetables/fruits.

Pasteurized full-strength juice credits as either the vegetables component or fruits component at only one meal or snack per day. Juice includes fruit and vegetable juice, frozen pops made from 100 percent juice, pureed fruits and vegetables in smoothies, and juice from canned fruit in 100 percent juice. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends serving whole fruits (fresh, canned, dried, and frozen) more often than juice; and making at least one of the two required snack components a vegetable or fruit.

Vegetables may substitute for the fruits components at any lunch or supper, but the two servings must be different vegetables.

Grains Component for CACFP Child Care Programs

The grains component includes breads and bread products (such as biscuits, bagels, rolls, tortillas, and muffins), snack products (such as crackers, animal crackers, graham crackers, hard pretzels, tortilla chips, and popcorn), cereal grains (such as buckwheat, brown rice, bulgur, and quinoa), pasta, ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals, cooked breakfast cereals (such as oatmeal), bread products used as an ingredient in another menu item such as combination foods (e.g., breading on fish or poultry and pizza crust in pizza). Grain-based desserts cannot credit. Examples include cookies, piecrusts in sweet pies, doughnuts, cereal bars, granola bars, sweet rolls, pastries, toaster pastries, cake, and brownies. Sweet crackers such as graham crackers and animal crackers are not grain-based desserts. However, the CSDE recommends not serving sweet crackers more than twice per week between all meals and snacks.

Grain products and recipes must be made with creditable grains. Creditable grains for the CACFP meal patterns include whole grains, enriched grains, bran, and germ. Cooked and ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals must be whole grain, enriched, or fortified; and cannot contain more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce.

The minimum creditable amount is ¼ ounce equivalent. If a food item provides less than the full-required meal pattern serving, the CACFP menu must include the additional amount from other grains.

CACFP menus must include at least one whole grain-rich (WGR) serving per day, between all meals and snacks served to participants. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends at least two WGR servings per day. WGR foods for the CACFP contain at least 50 percent whole grains and the remaining grain ingredients are enriched, bran, or germ. A grain food meets the WGR criteria if a whole grain is the first ingredient (or second after water), and the next two grain ingredients (if any) are creditable grains. A combination food meets the WGR criteria if the first grain ingredient (or second after water) is a whole grain, and the next two grain ingredients (if any) are creditable grains.


CSDE Crediting Worksheets for CACFP Child Care Programs

Worksheets 1-6 evaluate foods for compliance with the CACFP meal patterns for children. Worksheets 7-9 evaluate foods for compliance with the CSDE’s recommended nutrition standards for child care (Connecticut Child Care Nutrition Standards (CCCNS)), but not for compliance with the CACFP meal patterns for children. 

The CSDE recommends that CACFP sponsors maintain completed crediting worksheets as electronic files in a folder on the computer, instead of printing copies. The CSDE’s CACFP staff will accept electronic copies as appropriate crediting documentation during the Administrative Review of the CACFP.