Child and Adult Food Care Program no longer allows grain-based desserts

CACFP meal patterns have been revised by the USDA and will go into effect on October 1, 2017. One significant change is the elimination of grain-based desserts from reimbursable foods.

According to the United State Census Bureau, 61 percent of children under the age of five are receiving care in some type of childcare setting. With this high number of children being cared for in childcare settings it is important to ensure that adequate nutrition is being served. Recently the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) guidelines have been updated to help increase the number of children that are receiving adequate nutrition in childcare homes. These new guidelines will go into effect on October 1, 2017 with a one-year transition period. A major change that is taking place in these guidelines is the restriction of receiving reimbursement for serving a grain-based dessert; however; there is some current confusion about what is considered a grain-based dessert.

The United States Department of Agriculture defines a grain-based dessert as a source of added sugars and saturated fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans aim to reduce the consumption of added sugars and saturated fats; therefore, grain-based desserts cannot be counted towards the grain requirement at any meal or snack under the new CACFP guidelines.

The following are considered to be grain-based desserts and are not reimbursable under the new CACFP guidelines:

  • Cookies
  • Sweet pie crusts
  • Doughnuts
  • Cereal bars
  • Breakfast bars
  • Granola bars
  • Sweet rolls
  • Toaster pastries
  • Cake
  • Brownies
  • Even homemade granola bars and black bean brownies, cereal bars, and breakfast bars cannot be counted towards the grain requirement.

Muffins and quick breads (such as banana bread or zucchini bread) are still reimbursable.

The United States Department of Agriculture also encourages providers to be aware that just because something is not labeled as a traditional dessert item, it may contain high levels of sugar and fat, so discretion should be used when serving these items.

When looking to replace grain-based desserts, there are plenty of items you can serve instead and still get reimbursed for grains through CACFP. Additionally, the new nutrition standards require childcare providers to serve at least one grain per day that is at least 50 percent or more whole grain. Some examples of healthy alternatives include:

  • Whole grain mini bagels
  • Corn bread
  • Corn muffins
  • Tortilla chips & salsa
  • Whole grain pita bread & hummus
  • Pretzels (soft or hard) & hummus
  • Savory whole-grain crackers
  • Rice cakes
  • Grain salads
  • Whole-grain banana bread
  • Whole-grain zucchini bread

Although it may seem like there are a lot of changes occurring regarding grain-based desserts, these changes were made to help improve the health of children in child care settings. Not only does this help to improve the health of children, but it also helps to save child care providers money because many grain-based desserts are more expensive then other grain options! It is important to note that grain-based desserts can still be served, however they are not reimbursable and caution should be taken due to the high amounts of sugar in these items.

More information regarding the Child and Adult Care Food Program can be found on the USDA website.