How the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP) Impacts American Families

( – When it comes to child care centers, senior care centers, and other institutions that provide meals for children and adults, ensuring nutritious meals is often a challenge. Because of that, the federal government has established a program called Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP. Through CACFP, care centers for adults and children, as well as some qualified after-school programs are able to get reimbursement for meal and snack costs.

CACFP has been around since 1986, and its focus is to make sure these centers can provide healthy snacks and meals for the people they care for. At this time, the program provides services for over 4.2 million children each day, as well as 138,000 adults.

Is My Care Center Eligible for CACFP?

CACFP emphasizes offering funding and care for nonprofit and private care centers in low-income brackets. CACFP provides reimbursement to the following types of care facilities:

  • Child Care Centers: Public nonprofit and private child care centers and Head Start programs can participate in CACFP. To qualify, for-profit child care centers need to have 25 percent or more of the enrolled children in Title XX, or otherwise qualified to get reduced price or free school meals.
  • Group or Family Daycare Homes: To qualify, these homes must work with a Householding organization.
  • Emergency Shelters: Private or public nonprofit emergency shelters must provide meal and residential services to youth or children who are unhoused to qualify. These shelters must also meet any local or state safety codes.
  • At-Risk After School Programs: Programs in the community that offer after-school sports, theater, or other activities in communities where at least half of the children can get reduced-price or free school lunches qualify for snack and meal reimbursement.
  • Centers for Adult Daycare: Private or public nonprofit centers providing comprehensive, structured services to adults functionally impaired or 60 years of age or older, who are also non-residents, may qualify. If the center is for-profit, they can only qualify if at least 25 percent of their clients are Title XX or Title XIX eligible.

How Does CACFP Work?

The point of CACFP is to provide various snacks and meals to care facility occupants during the day. CACFP has standard reimbursement amounts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as supplemental meals, also known as snacks. The lower 48 states have one rate, and Alaska and Hawaii have a different set rate. This is to make up for cost of living differences. Additionally, CACFP may reimburse eligible facilities for operations and administrative expenses related to facility opening and food distribution.

Reimbursement rates are determined by the children’s qualifications for reduced-price or free school lunches. While the program does offer reimbursement for kids whose families can pay for their school lunches, it does so at a lower rate than those families with children that qualify for free school lunches. The Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022 provided another 10 cents per meal through June of 2023 and als allowed qualified Tier II daycare facilities to get reimbursement at Tier I rates.

For adult care facilities, the reimbursements are based on the average income in the facility’s service area.

Every July, reimbursement rates are readjusted.

To apply for CACFP, care centers hoping to qualify for reimbursement should contact their appropriate state agency. For the most part, states use the education department to operate the program, but some run CACFP through their human services or social services agencies. See a complete list at the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service website and don’t hesitate to apply if your care center is eligible.

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