CACFP / Child Care Food Program

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

The goal of the Childcare food Program is to improve the health and nutrition of the children while promoting the development of good eating habits and nutrition education.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a Federal program that provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving daycare. CACFP provides nutritious meals to 2.9 million children and 86,000 adults who receive day care outside of their home. Licensed or approved non-residential, public or private non-profit child care centers; Head Start centers; settlement houses; and neighborhood centers may serve meals and snacks to infants and children through CACFP. For-profit child care centers may also participate if they meet certain criteria for serving low-income children. CACFP reaches even further to provide meals to children residing in homeless shelters, and snacks and suppers to youths participating in eligible after school care programs.

CACFP reimburses participating providers for their meal costs and provides them with USDA commodity food and nutrition education materials. Reimbursement for centers is computed by claiming percentages, blended per meal rates, or actual meal count by type (breakfast, lunch, supper, or supplement) and eligibility category (free, reduced price, and paid). Institutions must submit accurate monthly claims for reimbursement to their administering agencies.

Children age 12 and younger are eligible to receive up to two meals and one snack, each day, at a day care home or center, through CACFP. After school care snacks are available to children through age 18. Providers in the CACFP must serve meals that meet federal guidelines, and must offer free or reduced-price meals to eligible people.

You can call your local Cooperative Extension office to find out about the free and low cost programs and booklets available on childhood nutrition. Cooperative Extension is listed under state or county government in your telephone directory. Also, call your local CCAFP sponsors to get more information on the program and what is offered.

Besides CACFP, there are the following food programs designed for children in schools and childcare institutions:

  • The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) which is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.
  • The School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides cash assistance to States to operate nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions.
  • The Special Milk Program (SMP) provides milk to children in schools and childcare institutions who do not participate in other Federal meal service programs. The program reimburses schools for the milk they serve.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,