Improving Lives with the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP)

Healthy Food Isn’t Cheap — But This Program Can Take The Edge Off

( – Ensuring children and adults have healthy, nutritional meals and snacks while they are involved in care programs is important. After all, for low-income Americans, they may not be getting nutritious food at home. Due to the high costs of providing nutritious food, the government has created a program to deflect costs. It’s called the Child and Adult Food Program, known as CACFP.

CACFP functions through reimbursement, providing the reimbursements directly to care centers for adults and children. This is inclusive of some after-school programs as well. The CACFP has been around since 1986 with the purpose of providing healthy snacks and meals for those in the program’s care. Presently, the program provides services for over 4.2 million kids and 130,000 adults in need each day.

How Do You Participate in CACFP?

CACFP goes to nonprofit and private care centers, but prefers centers that provide care for lower-income residents. CACFP serves multiple types of facilities:

Child Care Facilities: Public nonprofit and private child care centers are eligible for participation. Head Start programs may participate, too. If the child care center is for-profit, they have to have 25 percent or more of the children in Title XX or meet the qualifications to get school lunches at a free or reduced price.

Daycare Homes: Group and family daycare homes may qualify if they are contracted with a Householding organization.

Emergency Shelters: Private nonprofit or public emergency shelters may qualify if they offer residential and meal service to unhoused kids. All eligible shelters must meet local and safety safety codes to qualify.

At-Risk After-School Programs: Community-based programs offering after-school enrichment programs in neighborhoods where at least half the children can receive reduced-price or free school lunches may qualify for snacks and meals.

Adult Daycare Centers: Public or private nonprofit centers may be eligible if they offer comprehensive, structured services to non-residental adults who are at least 60 years of age or functionally impaired. For-profit centers can qualify if a quarter or more of their participants are in Title XIX or Title XX programs.

How Does CACFP Work?

CACFP is a reimbursement program, so it works by providing reimbursement for snacks and meals given at care facilities during the day. CACFP has established reimbursement rates for each meal of the day (breakfast, lunch, supper) as well as supplemental snacks. The reimbursement rates are set for the contiguous 48 states, with a separate rate for Hawaii and Alaska.

If your program spends money on administrative expenses or distribution expenses to procure and provide food, CACFP may also provide reimbursement to you for those expenses.

For child care programs, reimbursement is typically based on the eligibility of the children for reduced-price or free school lunches. While the program also provides reimbursement for those whose families can pay for their school lunches, it is at a lower rate. Thanks to the Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022, another 10 cents per meal through June 2023 gets added to reimbursement, and qualifying Tier II daycare facilities get reimbursed at Tier I rates up to and through June 2023.

Every year, the government adjusts reimbursement rates in July. This is because the cost of food and the consumer price index changes so rapidly, as we can see with inflation affecting food costs.

How To Apply for CACFP Reimbursements

Like many programs, CACFP is administered locally through state agencies. If you’re representing a care center and you would like to apply for the reimbursement, you need to go to your state agency. While each state is different, most run the program through their educational department, human services agency, or social services agency. For a complete list of state agencies, check with the USDA.

Care centers can maximize the benefits they provide and the good they can do by taking advantage of CACFP reimbursements. If you represent an eligible center, apply today.

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