What is the CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program)?

What is the CACFP (Child and Adult Food Care Program)?

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Child and Adult Care Program helps over 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults on a daily basis. This help comes in the form of nutritious meals and snacks for families in low income households, children in day care centres and emergency shelters, youths in after school care and vunerable adults in day care centres.

Why is the CACFP program important?

According to the U.S Census Bureau:

nearly one third (32%) of working families in the U.S may not have enough money to make ends meet’‘.

This equates to roughly 10.2 million families that are going without and this is without including families without any income.

To factor this in, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new numbers in April 2014 showing that 20% all families in the U.S have no income at all. Combining this with the 32% of families that struggle to make ends meet equates to 52% of all families in the United States being “below the breadline.”

The CACFP scheme can help a great many of these families by ensuring they receive healthy, nutritious meals. Many elderly people will also see great benefit from enrolling in the program whilst in care. Ultimatley the CACFP program aims to eleviate some of the day to day strain on families and indivudals alike who are struggling in the current economic climate.

How does the Child and Adult Care Food Program work?

The CACFP is run through the USDA’s ‘Food and Nutrition Service’ (FNS) which can offer a grant to the State. The State can then use these funds to reimburse participating care centres for the costs they have inccured through the program.

Children and adults alike can register at participating centres to be enrolled and start getting support with their meal supplementation.

What sort of help with meals does the CACFP offer?

Participating CACFP centres follow specific meal patterns outlined by the USDA. Traditionally the basis of a daily meal plan is as follows:

  • Breakfast:
    • A serving of milk, fruits, vegtables or juice and grains or bread.
  • Lunch/Dinner:
    • Milk, grains or bread, meat/meat alternative and two servings or fruit or vegtables
  • Snacks:
    • A selection of 2 out of 4 of milk, fruits or vegtables, grains or bread and meat/meat alternative

However as of January 2015, meal pattern requirements for the CACFP have been updated to reflect the ‘2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA).’

Changes include:

  • At least one serving of grains must be whole-grain rich
  • Grain based desserts are not to be used as one of the grain components
  • A meat/meat alternative can be substituted for as much as 1.5 servings of breakfast grains
  • Tofu can be used as a meat alternative
  • Milk alternatives may only be used if nutritionally equivelent to fluid milk
  • Yogurt can be given to Adults only in place of milk once per day only
  • Frying is no longer allowed as a method of food preparation

What facilites can participate?

There are a variety of facilites that can participate in the CACFP program. Including but not limited to:

  • Licensed or Approved public/private child care centres and head-start programs
  • Registered family care homes
  • After school care centres in low income areas
  • Emergency shelters
  • Public/private non profit and some for-profit Adult care facilites

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the CACFP program there are some criteria which must be met.

  • Children:
    • Must be under 12 years of age
    • Migrant children must be under 15 years of age
  • Youths:
    • Must be in an after school care program
    • Must be under 18 years old
  • Adults:
    • Must be functionaly impaired or 60 years and older
    • Must be enrolled in an adult day care centre


* Image used “d2536-1” by U.S. Department of Agriculture is licensed under CC BY 4.0


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