(713) 405-1275

The Childcare Management Blog

Optimize Meal Tracking for Your Childcare Business

Posted by EZChildTrack Team on Aug 16, 2017 9:30:00 AM

optimize meal tracking for your childcare business

Meal tracking is an essential part of childcare management, particularly if your facility participates in government reduced lunch programs or other subsidized programs. The federal government leaves it to the states to administer federal programs, which simplifies filing for you but still makes you responsible for keeping track of all meals served to your kids.

Federal Guidelines and Requirements

The primary federal program is called the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which is funded by the US Department of Agriculture. This program supports many providers and contains guidelines about the content of nutritious meals as well as information about the type of program eligible for CACFP funding.

Ready to start meal tracking at your childcare facility? CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION.

The state administers the program and trains those within the childcare facility, facilitates the expansion of the program in low-income and rural communities, and ensures the effective operation of the program by each facility.

Here are just a few of the requirements set forth by CACFP:

  • Your institution (facility) must prove administrative capability to manage the program with appropriate and effective management practices
  • Fiscal accountability through the use of a financial system with management controls and the integrity and accountability of all funds and property received, held, and disbursed and expenses incurred
  • Compliance with civil rights requirements
  • Compliance with licensure or approval requirements
  • Food service compliance with applicable state and local health and sanitation requirements
  • Maintenance of complete and appropriate records
  • Claim reimbursement only for eligible meals

Section 226.20 of the CACFP also contains the breakdown of each meal component in detail. For example, the required component of fluid milk is broken further into the specific requirements for the type of fluid milk each age group is required to receive.

Meal patterns and requirements are provided by both CACFPA and the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

That is a lot to keep up with just for meals.

How to Meet the Standards

Accurate record-keeping to prove you are following the standards is crucial to maintaining your reimbursement eligibility. Record keeping can also help you establish food issues for different children.

For example, if you maintain a record of the foods eaten by each child, you can reference the records later if the child becomes ill, appears to be having an allergic reaction, or exhibits behaviors you suspect are tied to a particular food item. You can report your findings to parents as part of your service.

Meal counts are the basic building block of reporting. To assist your kitchen in reducing waste and shortages, you can perform a count early in the day of children present who will be eating a meal, then counting again as the meals are served.

There is a difference between meals served, and meals claimed. You can serve unlimited numbers of meals per day, but you can only claim up to three meals per day for reimbursement.

  • Two main meals, such as breakfast and lunch
  • One snack or supplement

Claim the meals for which you will receive maximum reimbursement.

Reporting requirements differ by state, but most require records to contain a child's age, date of birth, and a precise meal count per child. The most common issues with compliance pertain to accurate record-keeping:

  • The documentation is inadequate to establish that the provider has recorded meals accurately.
  • Meals are approved without validating them against the meal pattern guidelines from the USDA.
  • Meals are counted inaccurately, including counts of meals never served.
  • Providers are not adequately monitored on-site.

Did we mention documentation was important?

Ready to choose childcare software, but don't know where to start? Download  our free guide

Tracking Meals to Ensure Compliance

Meal roll call sheets can help you keep consistent meal counts. You can create fill-in-the-blank forms with a word processor, or you can download a free meal count sheet. Make sure it includes columns for each meal served.

While the manual method works, it also takes up valuable time, not just in filling them out but in consolidating them for reports to state agencies and your own purposes, such as budgeting. Childcare management software solutions often provide meal tracking applications to make meal counting more efficient and accurate while saving you a bundle of time.

Meal tracking software contains the following capabilities:

  • Defining food items
  • Menu planning
  • Meal scheduling
  • Meal tracking detailed per individual child and in batch for meal counts
  • Weekly and monthly menu storage
  • Storage of monthly meal count reports
  • Creating a nutritional analysis for each child
  • An interface with the USDA nutritional database

You can see where this type of software solution would come in handy. Once the application is set up with food item definitions and an interface with the USDA database, your staff can easily plan each type of meal with recipes pulled from a database with predetermined nutritional balance and values.

You can build multiple menus to rotate throughout the year as well as plan for special meals at holidays or other times. Schedule the meals according to the menu, and you have an accurate supply list and information to improve your budget for food and supplies.

You can also print out meal count sheets to record meals per classroom and per child, with each already listed on the paper. Alternatively, you can perform your meal counts on a tablet or smartphone. All the information is securely stored, and you can ask for a variety of reports to file with your reimbursement documentation and to allow you to work ahead on types of meals and menus to plan.

Proper nutrition is responsible for the increases in average height, supports mental acuity, and provides energy for those small bodies to move and grow. As a member of the childcare industry, you have a responsibility to your small charges to provide healthy meals and alternatives that some may not have access to at home. It also benefits you when everyone is properly fed; hungry children are listless, cranky, and don’t learn well.

In addition, to keep up with your food budget and meal reimbursements from federal and state programs, you need accurate records upon which to base your future menus and food and supply purchases.

New Call-to-action

Topics: Reporting and Optimization, Childcare Management

Download the New Case Study From EZChildTrack

How We Helped Brevard Public Schools Streamline Operations

Inside you'll learn about:

  • Their challenge
  • Our solution to this challenge
  • How we ultimately increased productivity and decreased staffing costs

Click the image below to get your copy now! 

ipad blog sidebar-3

Subscribe to the Blog for Email Notifications

Recent Posts