New CACFP Meal Patterns and Minute Menu Systems

It’s an exciting time in the CACFP! The new meal pattern has finally been announced.  And the good news is that it’s pretty reasonable—both in the changes it makes for better child nutrition and in the implementation timeline.

Whether you use Minute Menu HX or Minute Menu CX, we know that you have questions about how and when our software will be able to accommodate the new meal pattern.  Some of those questions we can answer and even do now. Some of those questions are going to require research, planning, and software changes to implement.

In each and every case, the software that you, your providers, and your centers use will be fully compliant before the implementation date of October 1, 2017.

And as always, we’ll be providing training videos and other materials to help make this transition as smooth as possible for your internal team and for your providers and centers.

Early Implementation

USDA released a memo on early implementation of the new meal pattern, and we are in the process of discerning which portions of the meal pattern you’ll be able to switch to early and which portions will need to wait on new software development to comply.  In the meantime, it’s important to remember that early implementation is always voluntary and meals cannot be disallowed for following the current meal pattern prior to October 1, 2017.

If your state informs your office that it will choose to opt-in to some or all of the changes that are eligible for early implementation, please pass along that communication to us as soon as you receive it.  We will be able to use that information to determine the priority for making any necessary changes to our software.

Individual Allowances for Early Implementation

Fortunately, it looks like most of the individual allowances that can be implemented early will be simple additions to your food lists once your State Agency authorizes those changes.  This includes:

  • Reimbursing infant meals when the mother breastfeeds on-site (no change required)
  • Allowing yogurt, whole eggs, and ready-to-eat cereals under the infant meal pattern (simple additions and changes to your custom food list)
  • Counting tofu and soy yogurts as a meat alternate (simple additions to your custom food list)

We are working on a plan for early implementation of the meat and meat alternate at breakfast allowance and whether that item can be made available prior to completing all of the other changes needed for the full meal pattern update.

Full Meal Pattern Update Early Implementation

We’ll be working on our plan for rolling out the full meal pattern changes, in which we hope to include some enhancements to the software that will make dealing with foods and nutrition analysis easier for you.  In the meantime, we are anticipating further guidance from USDA over the coming months on what they will be requiring from a record-keeping standpoint and a monitoring standpoint.  Until the full requirements and expectations for implementing the updated meal patterns are understood, we are in planning-only mode.  We have no doubt that USDA will supply CACFP operators and participants with detailed requirements and operational instructions in plenty of time to make these changes in the software for the effective date of October 1, 2017.  Until we see more information, however, we will not be able to announce when or if early implementation of the entire new meal pattern will be possible.