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Eligibility Requirements

Child Care Centers: Public or Private Non-profit

Any child care organization in Iowa providing non-residential care for children may participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program if the following requirements are met:

  • The center is licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) or is specifically exempted from licensing by the Iowa DHS and has had the proper health and safety inspections.
  • The organization is a public institution, or the organization is a private non-profit organization with tax-exempt state [(501(c)(3)] as determined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Code of 1986.

A private non-profit or a public organization can operate a preschool, full day child care center, an outside school hours child care, an At Risk After School snack program or an emergency shelter program.

A Board of Directors governs the private non-profit organization. Voting board of directors should not have a vested interest in the center(s) or be a paid center employee.

Child Care Centers: Private For-Profit

A private for-profit child care organization in Iowa providing non-residential care for children may participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program if the following requirements are met:

  • The center is licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) or is specifically exempted from licensing by the Iowa DHS and has had the proper health and safety inspections.
  • The center has at least 25% free and reduced-price eligible children enrolled relative to the total enrollment or the license capacity.

25% Documentation Survey

To determine CACFP eligibility, distribute the income eligibility form (with a cover letter) to parents, and complete the 25% documentation form.

Emergency Shelters
An emergency shelter must provide residential care and food services to homeless children. It must be a public or private nonprofit institution. Unlike most other CACFP facilities, a shelter does not have to be licensed to provide child care. However, it must meet any health and safety codes that are required by state or local law.

A shelter may complete an application and sign an agreement with the State administering agency, or it may participate as a facility under an existing public or non-profit CACFP sponsoring organization.

At Risk After School Snack Program

At Risk After School site, it must be located in a school attendance area where at least 50 percent of the enrolled children are eligible for free or reduced price meals (area eligible). After school care programs can use free and reduced price meal data from elementary, middle, or high schools to document a site as "area eligible". Regularly scheduled educational or enrichment activities must also be provided in a supervised environment. There are no federal licensing requirements; however, after school care programs are required to meet State or local licensing requirements. If the organization is exempt from licensing, the program must meet State or local health and safety requirements.

What is QRS?

QRS stands for Iowa's Quality Rating System. It offers providers a guided way for childcare providers to improve the quality of child care they provide by achieving recognized "Levels".

What do the levels mean?

A provider who achieves Level 1 has met Iowa's registration or licensing standards to achieve Level 2. A provider must complete additional training and steps to improve quality and participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). To reach Levels 3-5 significant steps in meeting key indicators of quality in the areas of professional development, health and safety, environment, family and community partnership and leadership and administration must be met. CACFP participation has been shown to be an indicator of quality child care so is required to achieve Level 2.

Registered child development homes, Licensed child care centers, Head Start, Early Head Start, afterschool programs, and child care programs operated by school districts are eligible to apply for QRS. For more information visit:


What Meals Can be Reimbursed?

Child Care Centers are paid reimbursement for meals served to eligible children and infants that follow CACFP meal pattern requirements. Centers may request approval for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks. Reimbursement is allowed for two meals and one snack or one meal and two snacks per child per day. Meals served to supervising adults, volunteers and visitors cannot be claimed for CACFP reimbursement.

Outside School Hours Care Centers may claim breakfasts and snacks. Lunches may be claimed only when school is not in session such as on weekends, holidays or school vacations or when the school does not have a lunch program.

At Risk meals must be served after the end of the school day or on vacation days or holidays (during school year only). If the school has an extended school day, the snack may be served before the end of the school day. If the Program is open on non-school days any one meal and one snack may be claimed per child per day. All snacks are reimbursed at the "free" rate. Income applications are not required.

Homeless and Emergency Shelters may claim breakfast, lunch and supper or two of these meals and a snack. All meals are reimbursed at the "free" rate. Income applications are not required.

If income applications are collected, reimbursement is based on the income level of participants (free, reduced-price or paid). Meals served to lower income participants are reimbursed at a higher (free or reduced-price) rate. Click here for CACFP reimbursement rates.

Application Procedures

How do I apply for the CACFP center program in Iowa?

Centers-At-Risk Programs and Emergency Shelters:

Contact Robin Holz at 515-281-3484

Attendance at a CACFP Steps to Success Workshop is required to learn Program rules and recordkeeping requirements. ACACFP application must be requested from the State agency and completed. A pre-approval visit will be conducted by a State agency CACFP consultant to review the application and CACFP records.


Milk Substitutes

Non-dairy beverages may be served in lieu of fluid milk to children who cannot consume fluid milk due to medical or other special dietary needs. Parents or guardians may request, in writing, non-dairy milk substitutions without providing a medical statement. Non-dairy beverages must be nutritionally equivalent to milk. If the non-dairy beverage is not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk, the meal cannot be claimed, unless the substitution is due to a documented disability.

The standards and products that meet the nutrition requirements may be found at:

CACFP Information Brochure for Centers

The brochure provides basic information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for programs in child and adult care centers, preschools, at-risk afterschool and outside school hour’s settings, and emergency shelters. Additional information is provided on this web page.

CACFP Informational Brochure for Centers

hawk-i Outreach Poster

Outreach poster for hawk-i. Please display this poster where parents can see it.

Hawk-I Outreach Poster

Meal Patterns

The following meal patterns must be followed for the ages specified in order for meals served to participants to be eligible for CACFP reimbursement:

Infant Meal Pattern

Children 1 thru 12 Meal Pattern

The Handy Guide to Creditable Foods lists food items that must be used to fulfill meal pattern requirements. Creditable foods are those that can be used to fulfill meal pattern requirements whereas non-creditable foods cannot be used to meet meal pattern requirements.

Handy Guide to Creditable Foods - The document can be accessed and downloaded from IowaCNP under Download Forms.

CACFP Menu Ideas

Wisconsin CACFP Healthy Menu Planning Guide
This toolkit is intended to serve as a practical, how-to guide to following Meal Planning at your child care home or center. Materials include:

  • The CACFP Meal Pattern
  • Information on choking hazards and allergies
  • 16 weeks of menus
  • 120 CACFP-reimbursable recipes with nutritional information
  • 8 shopping lists of items needed for every two-week menu cycle

Institute of Child Nutrition Menus for Child Care
Menus for Child Care #1 offers eight complete weekly menus, including breakfast, lunch or supper, and snack meeting the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Pattern requirements for 3-5 year olds. Portion sizes can be adjusted for other age groups.
Menus for Child Care #2 offers four sets of four-week cycle menus that also meet the USDA CACFP Meal Pattern requirements for 3-5 year olds.

Menus for Child Care #3 meets the same requirements in two sets of four-week cycle menus.

These healthful and appealing menus can be used as cycle menus offering variety and moderation for balanced nutrition in the child care setting. The menus have been analyzed for major nutrients. Crediting information appears in parentheses after each item on the menu.

West Virginia’s Leap of Taste Menu Planning Guide
This resource include:

  • 16 weeks of menus
  • 120 CACFP-reimbursable recipes with nutritional information
  • 8 shopping lists of items needed for every two-week cycle menu

Montana Toolkit
This toolkit was designed for participants of the Montana Child and Adult Care Food Program. The information may be used by to any childcare provider. The menus (5 weeks of breakfast, lunch and one snack), with accompanying recipes and resources, are provided to assist childcare providers in serving healthy meals which are cost effective, easy to prepare, and appealing to children.

Nutrition and Physical Activity Resources
These award-winning resources were developed with Team Nutrition grant funding in partnership with several agencies and organizations. Designed to be an early intervention strategy to address childhood obesity, the resources provide hands on tools to help childcare providers implement the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Best Practice Tips for Mealtime
List includes acceptable types of meal service (pre-dished, family style and transition) and step by step tips for successful mealtime from centers across Iowa.

CACFP Snack Ideas
List of creditable CACFP Snacks for use by child care centers and homes.

365 Days of Snacks
A list of 365 creditable snacks offers an idea for every day of the year! Credit: Community Action of Southeast Iowa CACFP, Burlington, IA

Texas Snacks That Count: Recipes for Nutritious Snacks
This recipe booklet includes 31 recipes that are easy to prepare without extra fat, sugar, and salt. The recipes meet the snack requirements of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), for children one through five years of age. The introduction includes tips to involve children in fun and safe food preparation activities.

Serving Size Chart
Used to assist staff who prepare serving dishes for CACFP family style meals to ensure enough food is on the table for the number of participants sitting at the table.


The Diet Modification Form must be completed by a licensed prescribing medical professional to document food substitutions based on a medical need. Centers must offer to provide food substitutions for medical needs that are defined as disabilities. Centers have the discretion to provide substitutions for medical needs that do not rise to the level of disability, and for non-medical dietary requests. Parents/guardians may provide food substitutions if they wish and if the center allows food from home. Meals may be claimed for reimbursement when the parent/guardian provides foods for documented medical reasons as long as the center provides at least one meal component.

Diet Modification Request Form

Diet Modification Request Form - Spanish Translation


Building for the Future Brochure

The Building for the Future Brochure must be provided to families upon enrollment to inform them of the center's participation in the CACFP. A copy may be downloaded from the USDA Websites listed below (print two-sided, flip on short edge) or obtained from the CACFP Steps to Success Manual.

Center Resources


The Iowa Eligibility Application musts be distributed to all families if the center wishes to claim meals for reimbursement at the higher (free or reduced price) rates of reimbursement. A current, complete and correctly approved application must be on file for a child whose meals are claimed at the free or reduced price rate of reimbursement. Forms are current for one year. The documents can be accessed and downloaded from IowaCNP under Download Forms.

Parent Letters:

One of the following letters must be attached to the Iowa Eligibility Application. Select the non-pricing letter for centers that include meals in the cost of child care.  Select the pricing letter for centers that charge separately for meals.
Parent Letter: Non-Pricing Center
Parent Letter: Pricing Center

Use this chart to determine if an Iowa Eligibility Application falls within the income guideline for free or reduced price eligibility. The guidelines change annually, starting July 1st.
Income Eligibility Guidelines - The documents can be accessed and downloaded from IowaCNP under Download Forms.

Instructions for approving the Iowa Eligibility Application
Approval Instructions

For Profit Centers complete this form to summarize free and reduced price eligibility. Mailto the Bureau of Nutrition and Health at the Iowa Department of Education when complete if you do not have at least 25% eligible for free or reduced price meals and you need a letter for QRS. Contact Robin Holz at 515-281-3484 if you believe you have 25% or more eligible to discuss next steps.
25% Documentation Survey Form

Child care center sponsors must use this form to conduct their 3 required annual review of sponsored center sites.
CACFP Sponsored Center (Site) Review Form

CACFP enrollment form with required information. Must be signed by a parent and updated annually.
CACFP Enrollment Form

CACFP Enrollment Form - Spanish

Daily Meal Participation Record - Form used to record daily meal participation. Each participant's first and last name must be listed.

Blank menu form for planning menus in the child care centers.

Menu Form for children ages 1-12 years (Child Centers only)

Centers must provide information about the WIC Program to families of enrolled children ages 1-5. WIC outreach materials be ordered by emailing a request to

There is no charge for these materials

CACFP Tracking Worksheet for Training Requirements

Use this form to track training for each staff member with CACFP duties to ensure the annual 1.5 hours of annual CACFP training per person has been completed.

Tracking Worksheet for Training Requirements

Household Contacts

Use these forms to conduct household contacts with parents to verify a child's attendance at the child care facility or verify information on the income application needs to be verified.

Household contacts - Tracking/Phone Contact Form

Household contacts - Sample Cover Letter

Food Production Records

Food Production Records are used to document that required amounts of food have been served. If food is ordered food from an outside source, use the Contracted Meal Food Production Record. If meals are prepared onsite, use either the Short Food Production Record or the Regular Food Production Record form. The regular form includes columns that match the Food Buying Guide and instructions for calculating amounts to prepare. Outside hours child care centers may use the form developed for those organizations.

Contracted Meal Food Production Record

Short Food Production Record

Regular Food Production Record

Food Production Record Worksheet (Outside School Hours Care Centers Only)

Food Production Records Worksheet
Weekly Food Production Record Breakfast and PM Snack
Weekly Food Production Record Snack Only

Infant Feeding

Infant Meal Pattern

Lists what must be served to infants at different ages in order for the meal to be eligible for CACFP reimbursement.

Infant Meal Pattern

Child Care Center Infant Enrollment Form

Includes required information that must be collected annually. The bottom of the form documents what formula the center offers and gives the parent the opportunity to accept or decline this formula and the center's infant food.

This form must be completed by the parent for all infants in care.

Infant Foods Tried at Home

Can be used to document in writing what foods an infant has been introduced to at home.

Infant Foods Tried at Home
Infant Foods Tried at Home - Spanish

Reimbursable Foods for Infants

Lists infant foods that must be used to fulfill the infant meal pattern requirements. Non-reimbursable foods are also listed.  Non-reimbursable foods may not be used to meet infant meal pattern requirements.

Reimbursable Foods for Infants

Infant Menu Form Options

Individual Infant Weekly Menu

Individual Infant Weekly Menu - Sample menu form to record an individual infant's weekly menu.

Individual Infant Monthly Menus

Infant Recipes

Infant Cereal Recipes - Two infant recipes (pancakes and muffins) using iron-fortified infant cereal may be used to meet the CACFP iron-fortified cereal requirement for 8-11 month olds at breakfast.

Child and Adult Care Food Program FAQs

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on February 20, 2017 at 8:12pm.