OLR Research Report

February 27, 2003




By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked what regulations and programs exist to assure that children attending day care receive nutritious food.


Department of Public Health (DPH) regulations require day care centers to (1) provide a nutritionally adequate meal to any child who attends for five hours or more a day and (2) have a registered dietician consultant to advise them on nutrition and food service. The State Department of Education (SDE) administers the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which reimburses centers and family day care homes for the meals and snacks they provide to income-eligible children. SDE also provides guidance materials and other resources on nutrition to centers and family home day care providers.


DPH regulations require child day care centers to provide a nutritionally adequate meal to any child who attends for five hours or more a day. A child who stays less than five hours must receive a nutritious snack, while one who attends between five hours and eight hours must receive both a meal and a snack. A child who stays more than eight hours must receive two nutritious meals and a snack. Parents can provide the nutritious meal or snack in lieu of the center doing so (Conn. Agency Regs., 19a-79-6a(a)(2)). Family day care homes must provide adequate and nutritious meals and snacks (Conn. Agency Regs., 19a-87b-10(c)(2)).

The regulations define a nutritionally adequate meal as one the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends for its Child and Adult Care Food Programs. These recommendations vary by age. For one- to five-year olds' lunch, the USDA recommends between and cup of milk; to cup of fruit and vegetables; cup of pasta or cereal or slice of bread; and 1 to 1 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, or cheese.

DPH regulations also require centers to have a consulting relationship with a registered dietician to advise them on nutrition and food service (Conn. Agency Regs., 19a-79-4a(h)(1)(E)).

DPH Division of Community Based Regulation consultants provide technical assistance to help centers and homes meet regulatory requirements. And its Bureau of Community Health's “Captain 5 A Day” program provides nutritional information to day care and elementary school parents, children, and staff through audio and video tapes, training materials, and workshops.


Day care centers and homes can receive reimbursement through the USDA's CACFP for meals and snacks they serve to children from families with incomes below 185% of the federal poverty level (FPL, $34,040 for a family of four). Reimbursement rates depend on the children's eligibility for free (family income up to 130% of FPL) or reduced-priced meals (income between 130 and 185% of FPL). The meals and snacks must meet the USDA requirements. The SDE's Office of Child Nutrition administers the program in Connecticut.

The Office of Child Nutrition has also produced a nutrition guidance document for preschool programs and maintains a nutrition resource library. The guidance document covers how programs can both serve nutritious food and educate children and parents about good nutrition. It is available at http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/early/ChildNutCP.pdf. The nutrition resource library contains materials on CACFP, menu planning and production, purchasing and storing food, and nutrition and nutrition education for preschoolers, among other areas. Its catalog can be accessed at http://www.state.ct.us/sde/deps/Nutrition/index.htm.