Foods Served in Child Care Facilities Participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program: Menu Match and Agreement with the New Meal Patterns and Best Practices

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2018 Jun;50(6):582-588. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2018.01.010. Epub 2018 Feb 21.


Objective: To assess the agreement of posted menus with foods served to 3- to 5-year-old children attending federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)-enrolled facilities, and the degree to which the facilities met the new meal patterns and best practices.

Design: On-site observations and menu coding.

Participants/setting: Nine early care and education centers.

Main outcome measures: Agreement of posted menus with foods served, and comparison of foods served and consumed with the new CACFP meal guidelines and best practices.

Analysis: Data were compiled for each meal (breakfast, lunch, and snacks). Frequencies and percentages of agreement with the posted menu (coded matches, substitutions, additions, and omissions) were calculated for each food component in the CACFP menu guidelines. Menu total match was created by summing the menu match plus acceptable substitutions. Menus were compared with the new CACFP meal guidelines and best practices.

Results: The match between the posted menus and foods actually served to children at breakfast, lunch, and snack was high when the acceptable menu substitutions were considered (approximately 94% to 100% total match). Comparing the menus with the new meal guidelines and best practices, the 1 guideline that was fully implemented was serving only unflavored, low-fat, or 1% milk; fruit and vegetable guidelines were partially met; fruit juice was not served often, nor were legumes; the guideline for 1 whole grain-rich serving/d was not met; and regular beef and full-fat cheese products were commonly served.

Conclusions and implications: Early care and education centers enrolled in CACFP provided meals that met the current CACFP guidelines. Some menu improvements are needed for the centers to meet the new guidelines and best practices.

Keywords: CACFP menus; Head Start; best practices; early childhood education; meal patterns; preschool children.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Day Care Centers
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Assistance
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Menu Planning*
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Texas