Child Care Center Operators
Food Service Requirements for Child Care Centers
Produced by the Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services
[On-screen, preschoolers eat lunch with teachers nearby.]
We have rice, cookies, and carrots, bananas, barbecue chicken, and teriyaki chicken, teriyaki chicken, and veggie burger, and milk. Enjoy.
Series Host, Off-screen:
Every day, most child care centers serve some form of breakfast and lunch in addition to snacks. That’s a lot of food service. [Host on-screen.] How foods are stored and served at your center is crucially important to the health and safety of all children in your care. So knowing Community Care Licensing’s food-related requirements, and remaining in compliance with them, are among your most important responsibilities as a child care provider.
[Two licensing representatives speak.]
Community Care Licensing Representative 1:
There are two types of requirements that licensing maintains regarding food served to children.
Community Care Licensing Representative 2:
The first type covers food safety, with a special emphasis on how and how long foods may be stored in child care centers.
CCL Rep #1:
The second type covers the kinds of foods that may or may not be provided to children in care, and the amount of allowed foods that centers need to have on hand.
CCL Rep #2:
These requirements provide center operators with clear guidelines to ensure that children receive safe and nutritious meals and snacks, and why licensing program analysts pay special attention to food storage and service when they visit center-based facilities.
[The host speaks, and the questions she asks are displayed on a white board.]
What are the requirements covering food safety at my center?
[The host speaks as the corresponding content is displayed onscreen.]
Food service areas must have a sink, refrigeration, storage space for food, and hot and cold running water. The hot water must be hot enough to thoroughly clean all dishes and utensils after use. Food storage and preparation areas must be kept clean of dirt and debris and be free of pest contamination, mold, and other health hazards. All edible items must be stored separately from potentially hazardous items, such as cleaning materials and poisons, which means they cannot be stored on the same shelf or in the same cabinet, closet, or pantry.
Refrigerators used to store food for children must be kept clean and in good working order. Food items must not be served to children if they show any signs of spoilage or contamination.
In infant child care centers, all food items provided by families, such as milk or formula, must be labeled with the name of the child for whom they’re intended, the contents of the container, and the date it was provided. Although not required by regulations, it is a best practice not to allow the sharing of food brought from home by any children. This can help prevent allergic reactions and the spread of communicable diseases.
What are the requirements covering what I may or may not serve to children?
[As the host speaks off-screen, children discuss and eat their food.]
And we got a banana, we got some bananas.
There must be an adequate amount of food to serve all children in care at any time. All meal and snack items must meet guidelines maintained by Community Care Licensing and other governing agencies covering nutrition. [Host on-screen.] These include the types and amounts of the four food groups included in meals and snacks, and the need to serve only healthy beverages to children, which are limited to:
• clean and safe drinking water,
• 1% or nonfat milk,
• and no more than 1 serving of 100% fruit juice with no added sweetener of any kind.
You’ll find a complete guide to meal and snack requirements for each age group on the Community Care Licensing website.
What other food service requirements are covered by licensing regulations?
[A snack menu on a bulletin board briefly appears.] You are required to post a complete menu of all meals and snacks to be served at your center at least 1 week in advance. You may certainly post menus further in advance. However, you must update menus whenever they change. You may substitute a menu item that is not listed on the menu if an adequate supply of the original item wasn’t delivered or available, and as long as the substitute meets the stated nutritional standards.
Serving only safe and nutritious foods to the children in your care is one of your most important responsibilities. Safety requirements cover how, where, and for how long food-related items may be stored. For example, edible items must be stored separately from potentially hazardous items such as cleaning products. Nutrition requirements cover the types and proportions of food that ensure children are eating a healthy diet while in child care. There are specific food requirements for each age group and specific requirements for serving healthy beverages. Because the science of nutrition and food safety may change based on new findings and discoveries, you should regularly review all food-related requirements posted on the Community Care Licensing website.
State of California