A data set, herein called CACFP component serving data,1 provided data representative of foods used by CACFP family day care providers. Using the CACFP component serving data, the cost estimation process began by grouping the foods currently used by providers into composite food items called food clusters and then into composite food groups (composite meal components). The objective of the development of food clusters and composite food groups was to provide a profile of the food currently served by CACFP providers. The first steps included the identification of the food items most commonly offered by providers and weighting of the food items by their current frequency of use for three different meal types (breakfast, lunch/supper, and snack). The weighted composite food groups were then used as a proxy for menus of foods offered and, hence, as the baseline for the evaluation of changes to the food cost2 of the meals and snacks served. The identified foods and their weights within the clusters were used in the estimation of the cost of the food clusters. In turn, the relative weights of the clusters that belong in each of the current four meal components, estimated separately by eating occasion, allowed the estimation of the baseline cost of each of the meal components by eating occasion. As an example, the “vegetables and fruit” component (a composite food group) offered for breakfast under the current Meal Requirements includes the following weights of seven food clusters: bananas, 23 percent; strawberries/berries/kiwi, 11 percent; peaches/apricots, 8 percent; oranges, 7 percent; applesauce, 7 percent; pears, 6 percent; various juices, total of 14 percent; and other vegetables and fruits. Price data were applied to the food items within each cluster to obtain the cost of the food clusters.
Estimates of costs representing the recommended Meal Requirements need to reflect the revised meal patterns and food specifications presented in Chapter 7. To accomplish this, it was necessary to make adjustments in the baseline food clusters and composite food groups, as described in Appendix I. In general, the revised food clusters contain fewer food items that are high in solid fats, added sugars, and/or sodium. Compared to baseline,