How the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP) Helps Americans

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( – The cost of food is a major expense for care centers for both children and adults. However, a federal program helps defray some of that cost. The Child and Adult Care Food Program, or  CACFP, helps reimburse adult and child care centers for the cost of food. The program even supports some after-school programs.

Since 1986, the CACFP has provided support for various care centers. Currently, it supports services for over 4.2 million children and 138,000 adults every day in various programs across the nation.

Who is Eligible to Participate in CACFP?

CACFP helps support both private and nonprofit care centers, but the focus is primarily on centers that help support people in low-income communities. CACFP serves the following types of facilities.

Child care centers: Private and public nonprofit child care centers can participate as well as Head Start programs. For-profit centers must have at least 25% of their children enrolled in Title XX, or eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches.
Daycare homes: Family or group daycare homes must contract with a Householding organization to qualify.

Emergency shelters: Public or private nonprofit emergency shelters qualify if they provide residential and meal services to children or youth experiencing homelessness. Shelters are required to meet any state or local safety codes.

At-risk after-school programs: Community programs that provide after-school enrichment activities in neighborhoods where at least 50% of the children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches qualify for meals and snacks.

Adult daycare centers: Public or private non-profit centers that provide structured, comprehensive services to nonresidential adults who are 60 or older or functionally impaired qualify. For-profit centers qualify if 25% or more of their clients are served by Title XIX or Title XX programs.

How CACFP Works

The program provides reimbursement for meals and snacks that are distributed at care facilities over the course of the day. The CACFP has reimbursement rates for all three meals of the day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – as well as snacks. Rates are standard for the lower 48 states, but they are higher for Alaska and Hawaii due to the higher cost of living in those states.

The program also provides monthly reimbursement for administrative expenses that come with operating the facility and providing the services to their clients.

Child program reimbursement is based on children’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches, but will only cover the cost of children who pay full price at a much reduced rate.

The Keep Kids Fed Act has added an additional 10 cents per meal through June 2023, in addition to qualifying Tier II daycare facilities to be reimbursed at Tier I rates through June 2023. This should help various care centers better situated to get additional reimbursements for their costs of operation.

Adult care centers are a little different. Reimbursement rates for those are based on the average income in the area that that facility serves, rather than any other metric. The rates are adjusted in July of each year to reflect the changes in the Consumer Price Index. Additional adjustments are made for Alaska and Hawaii at this time as well, as there is a higher cost in those states for supplying meals.

How to Apply for CACFP Support

This program is administered through state agencies. Any care centers that seek reimbursements via this program must do so via their state agencies. While often this is run through a state’s education department, others will use the social services or human services agencies. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service keeps a complete list of state agencies.

The National CACFP Sponsors Association also provides resources to care centers that would like to participate in the program, and can connect care centers to potential sponsoring nonprofit agencies that would assist the care centers in applying for reimbursements.

Running a care center can be expensive, but the federal government has programs like the CACFP to help defray costs and keep local community centers serving children and adults active

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