Assessing Implementation of the New USDA CACFP Meal Pattern Standards

Principal Investigators
The Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis
Funded on

In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued updated standards governing the meal pattern requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Programs (CACFP), effective October 1, 2017. The updated standards will require participating providers to serve more whole grains, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and reduce the amount of solid fats and added sugars (SOFAS) in meals. Understanding how and whether these standards are being implemented will provide important insight for designing interventions to facilitate universal compliance with the standards, as well as provide information for decision-makers and advocates focused on child nutrition issues.

This study will examine three key research questions:

  1. Pre-implementation: How are CACFP providers planning to implement the USDA changes and what barriers do they anticipate as they plan for implementation?
  2. Post-implementation: How have CACFP providers implemented the changes in practice and what barriers have they faced?
  3. Pre-/Post-Comparison: What changes have been made in the offering of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and SOFAS during the first year of required implementation?

Both key informant and survey research methods will be employed and the study will be conducted over two waves between Spring 2017 and Spring 2018.

Evidence

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Rebecca M. Schermbeck, Julien Leider, and Jamie F. Chriqui release the first-ever report on whether CACFP-participating early childhood centers are limiting sugary cereals for children aged 2-5 years. Nearly one-third of these centers failed to meet the sugar-in-cereal requirement.

Using a nationwide sample of early childcare centers, Jamie Chriqui, Julien Leider, and Rebecca M. Schermbeck assess centers’ awareness of and reported readiness for implementing updated standards from the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Jamie Chriqui, Rebecca M. Schermbeck, and Julien Leider assess menu development, meal/snack preparation, provider meal preparation-related training, and food purchasing at early childcare centers.