Crediting Foods in CACFP Child Care Programs

Documents/Forms

General Crediting Guidance  |  Crediting Foods Prepared On Site
Crediting Commercial Processed Products   |   CSDE Crediting Worksheets for Child Care Programs

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


General Crediting Guidance

Crediting Foods Prepared On Site

To credit foods prepared on site toward the CACFP meal patterns, CACFP facilities must maintain standardized recipes that document the CACFP 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 1 ½ ounces of cheese and ¼ cup of whole grain-rich or enriched pasta. 

Crediting Commercial Processed Products

CACFP facilities must obtain appropriate documentation to indicate that commercial products credit toward the CACFP meal patterns. For example, to credit commercial chicken nuggets 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 1 ½ 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, CACFP facilities cannot credit commercial products toward the CACFP meal patterns.

Crediting Grains

Creditable grains include whole grains, enriched grains, bran, and germ. Cereal grains (e.g., oats, barley, cornmeal, and bulgur) and ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals and cooked breakfast cereal grains (e.g., oatmeal and cream of wheat) must be whole grain, whole grain-rich (WGR), enriched, or fortified, and cannot contain more than 6 grams of sugar per dry ounce. Except for sweet crackers such as graham crackers and animal crackers, grain-based desserts cannot credit in CACFP meals and snacks. Examples include cookies, sweet pie crusts, doughnuts, cereal bars, granola bars, sweet rolls, pastries, toaster pastries, cake, and brownies. The minimum creditable amount of the grains component is ¼ serving. If a food item provides less than the full-required serving, the menu must include the additional amount from other grains.

CACFP menus must include at least one WGR serving per day, between all meals and snacks served to children. Foods that qualify as WGR contain at least 50 percent whole grains and any other grain ingredients are enriched. 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 whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ. 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 whole grains, enriched grains, bran, or germ.

Meat/Meat Alternates

Creditable meat/meat alternates include cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; cheese; beans and peas (legumes); eggs; nut and seed butters; nuts and seeds; commercial tofu (containing at least 5 grams of protein in 2.2 ounces); yogurt or soy yogurt (containing no more than 3.83 grams of sugar per ounce); and alternate protein products (APPs). Legumes credit as either meat/meat alternates or vegetables, but not both in the same meal. Meat/meat alternates may substitute for the entire grains component at breakfast up to three times per week. At lunch and supper, the meat/meat alternates component must be served in a main dish, or in a main dish and only one other food item. The serving size of meat/meat alternates refers to the edible portion of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish as served, e.g., cooked lean meat without bone, breading, or other ingredients. The minimum creditable amount of the meat/meat alternates component is ¼ ounce. If a food item provides less than the full-required serving, the menu must include the additional amount from another serving of the meat/meat alternates component. The daily meat/meat alternates component at lunch must be served in a main dish, or in a main dish and only one other food item.

Crediting Milk

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 2-5. Flavored fat-free milk may be served to ages 6 and older, but the USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends serving only unflavored milk. 

All milk in CACFP child care centers operated in public schools must also meet the state beverage requirements of Section 10-221q of the Connecticut General Statutes. This includes milk sold as part of reimbursable meals and snacks, and milk sold separately from reimbursable meals. For a list of milk that complies with the federal and state requirements, see list 16 on the CSDE's List of Acceptable Foods and Beverages webpage.

Crediting Vegetables and Fruits

Creditable vegetables include fresh, frozen, and canned. A serving of canned vegetables must be drained. 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, 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 of the vegetables component is ⅛ cup. If a food item provides less than the full-required serving, the menu must include the additional amount from other vegetables. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends at least one serving per week of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas (legumes), starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.  Juice credits as the vegetables or fruits component at only one meal or snack per day. The juice limit includes all 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.

Creditable fruits include fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Serve canned fruits in light syrup, water, or 100 percent fruit juice. A serving of canned fruit may include the 100 percent juice in which the fruit is packed. All fruits credit based on volume except dried fruit credits as twice the volume served, e.g., ¼ cup of dried fruit counts as ½ cup of the fruits component. The minimum creditable amount of the fruits component is ⅛ cup. If a food item provides less than the full-required serving, the menu must include the additional amount from other fruits.  Juice credits as the vegetables or fruits component at only one meal or snack per day. The juice limit includes all 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. Canned fruit in light syrup or water does not count toward the juice limit. The USDA’s CACFP Best Practices recommends serving whole fruits (fresh, canned, dried, and frozen) more often than juice. Vegetables can substitute for the fruits components at any preschool lunch but the two servings must be different vegetables.

CSDE Crediting Worksheets for Child Care Programs