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The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a type of United States Federal assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to States in order to provide a daily subsidized food service for an estimated 2.9 million children and 86,000 elderly or mentally or physically impaired adults[1] in non-residential, day-care settings.[2] The program is commonly referred to as the Child Care, Child Care Food, Adult Care, or Adult Care Food Program, and is often operating in conjunction with other child and adult day-care programs, such as the Head Start program or the [Love Little Children Food Program, Inc]link title. Its federal identification number, or CFDA number, is 10.558.[2]


Program benefits

The program’s benefits consist of nutritious meals and snacks served to eligible children and adults who are enrolled for care at participating child care centers, adult day care centers, outside-school-hours care centers, after-school at-risk programs, family and group day care homes, and homeless and emergency shelters. These centers and shelters can be public and private non-profit centers, proprietary organizations, schools, private homes, and elderly centers, among others, on condition that they all comply with Federal, State and local licensing and approval requirements.[2]


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the program through grants-in-aid to States. The program is administered within most States by it’s designated educational agency, such as New York’s Education Department. In certain States, the program is administered by an alternate agency, such as the State department of health, family and/or social services. At the discretion of the State’s Governor, different agencies may administer the program’s child-care and adult day-care components, such as Wildwood C.A.C.F.P in Colorado. In the State of Virginia, the program is directly administered by the Food and Nutrition Service Mid-Atlantic Regional Office (MARO).[2]

Actual federal assistance provided to States and their designated agencies are in the form of cash reimbursement for meals served, and any other donation by the USDA to provide such meals. Program funds are provided to States through letters of credit issued under the FNS Agency Financial Management System. The States, in turn, use the funds to reimburse institutions for costs of actual operations (e.g. providing meals), as well as to support State administrative expenses. Generally, a State’s claim to cash reimbursement from the USDA is computed by first determining the number of meals served (by category and type), and multiplying the amount of service by a per-unit payment rate, also known as the “reimbursement rate.” The “type” of meal refers to the kind of meal service for which the institution seeks reimbursement, such as breakfasts, lunches, snacks, supplements, and dinners served. The “category” refers to the type of economic need of the child or adult to whom a meal is served, which can be categorized as “paid,” “reduced price,” or “free” meals.[2]

Child-care, adult day-care, and outside-school-hours centers may charge a single fee to cover tuition, meals, and all other day care services to recoup certain costs, however the vast majority of these centers operate non-pricing (free) programs. Nevertheless, all institutions must determine the eligibility of children and adults enrolled at these centers (e.g. low-income, mentally or physically disabled, etc.) for free or reduced price meals because such eligibility determinations affect the reimbursement rates for meals served to the participants. After-school at-risk programs, emergency shelters, and family day care homes are prohibited from charging separately for meals.[2]


  1. ^ Why CACFP Is Important, Child and Adult Care Food Program Homepage, Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture
  2. ^ a b c d e f Child and Adult Care Food Program (CFDA 10.558); OMB Circular A-133 Compliance Supplement; Part 4: Agency Program Requirements: Department of Housing and Urban Development, pg. 4-10.558-1

See also

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