The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) supports the nutrition and health of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals—more than 3 million infants and children and more than 114,000 impaired or older adults, primarily from low-income households. CACFP meals must meet regulations designed to ensure that participants receive high-quality, nutritious foods. The current requirements, however, are based in part on information that is two decades old, and in that time scientists have gained a better understanding of how improved nutrition can lead to better health. For assistance in updating the regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asked the IOM to review and assess the nutritional needs of the populations served by CACFP and to provide recommendations to revise the meal requirements for CACFP.
The IOM recommends that USDA implement new meal requirements that promote eating more fruits and vegetables, and whole grain-rich foods, and foods that are lower in fat, sugar, and salt. To make certain that CACFP providers understand and abide by these new requirements, the IOM recommends that USDA offer training and technical assistance to providers. In addition, the IOM recommends that USDA periodically review and update the Meal Requirements to maintain consistency with current dietary guidance. With so many people relying on CACFP for the majority of their meals, these changes can make a critical difference in the diets and overall health of millions of Americans.