Child and Adult Care Food Program Nutrition Standards

If you operate a licensed child care center or group child care home in the state of Connecticut and you currently serve meals and/or snacks or are considering adding food service, you’ve come to the right place.

If you are a family child care home provider in the state of Connecticut, click here.

This website provides information on licensing regulations related to nutrition standards for meals and/or snacks served in all licensed child care centers and group child care homes. These regulations are based on nutrition standards of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), a federally funded food assistance program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the CT State Department of Education, Office of Child Nutrition.

Per the regulations that govern child care in Connecticut, all licensed child care centers and group child care homes serving food meals and/or snacks are required to follow nutrition standards established by the federal CACFP program, even if they don’t participate in CACFP. 

What Are the CACFP Nutrition Standards?

Highlights include:
  • Breakfast must include milk, vegetables or fruit, and grains (i.e., 3 components; grains could be replaced with meat/meat alternates up to 3 times per week)
  • Lunch must include milk, meat/meat alternates, vegetables, fruit and grains (i.e., 5 components)
  • Snack must include any 2 of the following 5 components: milk, meat/meat alternates, vegetables, fruit or grains
For All Meals and Snacks:
  • Serve unflavored 1% or skim milk to children ages 2 and older, and unflavored whole milk to 1-year-olds
  • Encourage whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Limit added sugars and 100% juice
  • No deep-fat frying; limit purchased pre-fried food 
  • Make water available and offer throughout the day
To learn more about nutrition standards and to seek guidance and support, contact us at or 860-380-1283.
For the CT State Department of Education’s Meal Pattern Requirements for CACFP Child Care Programs (revised Dec. 2017), click here.
For the complete USDA CACFP meal patterns for children, click here.
For the complete USDA CACFP meal patterns for infants, click here.
One-page summaries of the USDA CACFP meal patterns:

Who Can Participate in CACFP?

Both nonprofit and for-profit licensed child care centers and group child care homes in CT are eligible to participate in CACFP. All licensed nonprofit centers and group child care homes are automatically eligible to apply, irrespective of income status among families that they serve. In order for a for-profit center to participate, at least 25% of enrolled children must be eligible for free or reduced-price meals at all times. An example of such eligibility would be a family’s receipt of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps.

Qualifying child care centers and group child care homes enter into agreements with the CT State Department of Education to assume administrative and financial responsibility for CACFP operations. CACFP provides reimbursements for the serving of meals and snacks to all enrolled children at rates determined based on the family income. Children from birth through 12 years of age, regardless of their family income, can receive meals or snacks covered by CACFP benefits. Children from families not eligible for free or reduced-price meals/snacks, or over-income children, will receive subsidized meals and snacks as well, just at reduced reimbursement rates (see rates below).

How is Reimbursement Determined?

CACFP reimburses child care centers and group homes for meals and snacks that meet the CACFP nutrition standards served to children at rates based upon a child’s eligibility for free, reduced price or over-income meals or snacks. Meal reimbursement is calculated by a formula based on the type and number of meals served, income eligibility of each participant, and the USDA meal rate. Reimbursement rates are revised annually for the cost of living adjustment. The rates below are the same for all contiguous states.

What are the Current Reimbursement Rates?

Effective July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020
  • Free: $1.84
  • Reduced-price: $1.54
  • Over-income: $0.31   
  • Free: $3.41
  • Reduced-price: $3.01
  • Over-income: $0.32   
  • Free: $0.94
  • Reduced-price: $0.47
  • Over-income: $0.08
1These rates do not include the value of USDA foods or cash-in-lieu of USDA foods which institutions receive as additional assistance for each CACFP lunch or supper served to participants.

Additional Resources

Online Training Information provides links to online training in nutrition, the CACFP program, and Go NAPSACC. Some of the opportunities may also count toward OEC licensing professional development.
Accommodating Special Diets in CACFP Child Care Programs developed by the CT State Dept. of Education provides guidance on meal modifications for children and infants with special dietary needs, based on the federal nondiscrimination laws and USDA regulations. This guide applies to CACFP child care centers (including at-[SM1]  risk afterschool care centers and emergency shelters) and family day care homes.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service CACFP Meal Pattern Training Tools (flyers available in English and Spanish). Short, two-page worksheets on the CACFP Meal Patterns.

USDA Thirty on Thursdays Trainings (available in English and Spanish). Monthly training webinars on hot topics related to the CACFP Meal Pattern requirements.

CT CACFP Outreach Flyer (English version, Spanish version) describing the CACFP program and nutrition standards specifically designed for CT child care centers and group child care homes.
Child Care Outreach Flyer provides strategies for promoting healthy eating and physical activity in child care centers and offers training resources for professional development. 
Water First for Your Thirst toolkit. A selection of best practices for center-based child care providers on oral health and obesity prevention.

This resource was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU58DP004797-05-01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.