Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.3 Requirements for Special Groups or Ages of Children

4.3.3 Nutrition for School-Age Children Meal and Snack Patterns for School-Age Children

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018. 

Meals and snacks should contain, at a minimum, the meal and snack patterns shown for school-aged children in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Children attending facilities for 2 or more hours after school need at least 1 snack. Breakfast, or a morning snack, is recommended for all children enrolled in an early care and education facility or in school. Depending on age and length of time in care, snacks should occur 2 hours after a scheduled meal. Early care and education settings should check with state regulators about the timing between meals. State agencies may require any institution or facility to allow a specific amount of time to elapse between meal services or require that meal services not exceed a specified duration (1,2). The quantity and quality of food provided should contribute toward meeting children’s nutritional needs for the day and should not lessen their appetites (3).


Early childhood is a time of rapid growth that increases the need for energy and essential nutrients to support optimal growth (2). Food intake may vary considerably because this is a time when children express strong food likes and dislikes. The CACFP requirements ensure that children in child care centers for longer than 8 hours (common in military child development centers, for example) are given the appropriate number of meals and snacks to meet individual caloric and nutrient needs (1).


The CACFP meal and snack pattern guidelines can be found at Programs serving children during the summer months can find the recommendations of the Summer Food Service Program at

Center, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. Child and Adult Care Food Program: meal pattern revisions related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Final rule. Fed Regist. 2016;81(79):24347–24383. Accessed January 11, 2018

  2. US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. Independent Child Care Centers: A Child and Adult Care Food Program Handbook. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture; 2014. Accessed January 11, 2018

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Pediatric Nutrition. Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018.