Participation in the CACFP Ensures Availability but not Intake of Nutritious Foods at Lunch in Preschool Children in Child-Care Centers

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Date of Original Version



Background: The US Department of Agriculture Child and Adult Care Food program (CACFP) recently (October 2017) updated requirements for meal reimbursement and best practice recommendations for serving nutritious meals and beverages, and minimum age-specific serving sizes for five food groups. It is not known whether CACFP-funded child-care centers are meeting the updated meal pattern requirements and best practice recommendations, and whether children are meeting nutrition recommendations based on the current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Objective: This study assessed whether the recruited CACFP-funded child-care centers in this study were meeting the updated (2017) CACFP requirements regarding foods served for lunch and whether children attending these child-care centers were meeting age- and sex-specific DGA recommendations regarding foods consumed. Design: This was a cross-sectional study using the Dietary Observation for Child Care method. Participants and settings: Children aged 3 to 5 years (n=108) from 10 classrooms in three CACFP-funded child-care centers in Lincoln, NE, were recruited by convenience sampling during spring 2018. Measurable outcomes: Food served and consumed during observed lunches in comparison with updated CACFP requirements and DGA, respectively. Statistical analysis: Adjusted mean amounts of foods served from each food group were compared with age specific minimum CACFP serving size requirements. Adjusted mean amounts of foods consumed from each food group were then compared with age- and sex-specific DGA recommendations. Results: The recruited child-care centers were meeting the updated CACFP requirements regarding foods served but showed limited adherence to the best practice recommendations during the observed lunches. However, the overall mean intake for grains, fruits, and vegetables was significantly lower (P<0.01) than DGA recommendations. In addition, approximately 25% of the children did not consume any vegetables during their meal. Conclusions: Although child-care centers were meeting the updated CACFP requirements by serving the recommended amounts of foods, children were not meeting DGA-recommended intakes. Future studies are needed to explore ways to improve adherence to best practice recommendations to improve children's consumption of healthy foods in child-care centers.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics