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and an estimate of menu costs follow. Key terms used to explain the approach include the following:

  • Food items The names of the foods in the database, as listed by participating centers (e.g., orange juice, granola bar)

  • Food clusters (also called composite food items) 133 food item groupings, each of which represents several or many similar food items (e.g., orange juice, which also includes lemon juice and lime juice)

  • Weighted composite food groups (meal components) Specific groupings of foods that make up each meal component (e.g., fruit, milk, meat and meat alternates), weighted to reflect their frequency of use


The basic information on food items used by CACFP comes from data prepared for the committee’s use that recorded all items requested for reimbursement by family child care providers during two months: August 2009 and February 2010. The data on claims for food items offered through the program were compiled by a large CACFP claims processor that processes claims for more than 100,000 family day care providers to the central processing unit (Minute Menu Systems, LLC, 2008). The two months of data were combined to cover the large number of providers and any seasonal variation. The recorded data included the month of request, food item name (alphanumeric), meal (breakfast, lunch/supper, or snack), and food classification (fruit/vegetable; meat or meat alternate; grain/cereal product; or milk—the four current meal components) and number of servings reported for reimbursement.

After sorting and cleaning the data, the food items were ranked by frequency of use. The more frequently used items, as explained below, were included in the food cluster. The selected food items were assigned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Codes (Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies [FNDDS], version 2.0) (USDA/ARS, 2009). The food codes allowed matching the food items in the claims processor file to the foods in the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)/Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) (USDA/CNPP, 2009) food price series and to component nutrients (USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies [FNDDS]). The CNPP/FNS prices represent foods as eaten at home. The food prices include the cost of food acquired through retail market stores, but they do not include any value of labor used in preparation of the food. Foods included as servings in the database were for foods

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