Understanding The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

There are so many different opportunities that are available thanks to the government. When people think of government programs, they usually think of getting assistance directly. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are some programs that can still provide support even if the support doesn’t go to those in need directly. An example of this type of program is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

What is CACFP?

CACFP is a type of federally-funded program. However, it is administered by states! This program gives reimbursements for meals and snacks that are nutritious that are provided to qualifying children and adults. These reimbursements go to participating child care centers, day care homes, and adult day care centers. This includes giving reimbursements for meals that go to:

  • Youth that take part in after school care programs
  • Youth that reside in emergency shelters
  • Adults that are older than 60 years old or live with a disability in a daycare facility

This program is able to contribute towards the healthy growth, development, and wellness of the youth and the wellness of qualifying adults in America. Now you may be thinking, if facilities are the ones that get the reimbursements, how can it actually help Americans in need? Well, over 4.2 million children and 138,000 adults benefit from meals and snacks that are nutritious through the CACFP every day.

How Does CACFP Work?

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) which is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will administer the program in the form of grants. Grants will go to states to operate the program. Most states administer CACFP through their state education agency. However, it will vary by state. Some states administer CACFP through other agencies like their state health agency or social services department. The agency that will administer CACFP will be determined by the Governor of the state.

Facilities that wish to take part in this program will need to form an agreement with their state’s administering agency. In this agreement, the facility would assume administrative and financial responsibility for CACFP operations. Different opportunities for CACFP benefits can be found at the following:

  • Child Care Centers
  • Day Care Homes
  • Afterschool Care Programs
  • Emergency Shelters
  • Adult Day Care Centers

Child Care Centers

Institutions that are licensed (or approved) to give day care services can participate in CACFP. They can do this independently or as Householded centers. This includes:

  • Public child care centers
  • Private nonprofit child care centers
  • Outside-school-hours care centers
  • Head Start programs

The meals served at these facilities will be reimbursed at rates that depend on the child’s eligibility for paid, reduced price, or free meals.

Day Care Homes

A licensed (or approved) family day care home or group day care home will need to sign an agreement with a Householding organization if they want to be a part of CACFP. The reimbursement for meals served will depend on qualifications for tier I rates or tier II rates.

Afterschool Care Programs

There are a variety of community-based afterschool care programs. These programs offer fulfilling and enriching activities for at-risk youth and can participate in CACFP. The program will need to be offered in areas where a minimum of 50% of the children qualify for reduced price or free meals.

Emergency Shelters

Public emergency shelters or private nonprofit emergency shelters that provide food and housing services to youth dealing with homelessness can participate in CACFP. They can get reimbursement for up to three meals per day that are served to youth that reside in the shelter.

Adult Day Care Centers

Public adult day care centers or private nonprofit adult day care centers that give a set of structured and comprehensive services to non residential adults can participate in CACFP. They can do this independently or as Householded centers. The meals served at these facilities will be reimbursed at rates that depend on the adult’s eligibility for paid, reduced price, or free meals.

Other Food Assistance Programs to Consider

Besides CACFP, there are some other food assistance programs that may be able to provide support! This includes:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

This is one of the most popular food assistance programs that can help Americans. This program provides qualifying recipients funds monthly through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. This card can be used to buy eligible groceries at stores that accept these cards as a form of usable payment. The amount of funds that this program can provide every month depends on information about the recipient like their income level, family size, etc. If you want to benefit from this program you will need to get in touch with your state agency. You can do this by visiting your local SNAP office, going to their website, or calling their toll-free SNAP information number.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

This is a type of food assistance program that specifically aims to help women, infants, and children. Recipients of this program include those that are:

  • Pregnant
  • Postpartum
  • Infants up until they turn one year old
  • Children up until they turn 5 years old

This program can provide support through supplemental nutritional foods, counseling, education, screenings, health referrals, and more. In order to apply for this program, you would need to reach out to your local or state agency to set up an appointment.

Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)

This program can provide food support to qualifying households after a natural disaster. However, in order for a state to provide this program, they will need to get an Individual Assistance declaration from the president. Once they receive this declaration they will need to get approved by the FNS to operate the program. If a household is able to receive benefits they will come in the form of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Just like with SNAP, the funds on the card can only be used on qualifying groceries at stores that accept them as a form of payment. If you want to apply for this program you will need to be on the lookout for information from your state through the local media. This information will detail how to apply, qualifying criteria, etc.


Finally, CACFP is a program that can provide support to people in America through qualifying facilities. In fact, millions of children and over 100,000 adults benefit each day from CACFP. The support from CACFP comes in the form of nutritious snacks and meal reimbursements. These reimbursements are given to facilities that are a part of this program. Besides this program, other food assistance programs include SNAP, WIC, and D-SNAP. There are a variety of different food support opportunities in America. You just need to know what’s out there!

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