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Nutrition, Health and Safety Logo

Office for Food and Nutrition Programs

Child and Adult Care Food Program


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What is the Child and Adult Care Food Program?

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a government program administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). State agencies or FNS regional offices oversee the program at the local level. In Massachusetts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education administers the CACFP. The CACFP reimburses participating day care operators according to rates set by the USDA, for healthy meals and snacks served in Child and Adult Day Care facilities. The program generally operates in child care centers, outside school hours centers, family day care homes, adult day health centers, emergency shelters for homeless children, and at risk after school snack programs. Emergency shelters and at risk after school snack programs can be reimbursed for meals/snacks served to children through the age of 18. Other child care facilities are reimbursed for meals/snacks served to children through the age of 12. All meals and snacks served must meet federal guidelines and be offered at no separate cost to participants. First authorized as a pilot program in 1975, the CACFP was formerly know as the Child Care Food Program and was set up to encourage child care centers, outside school hour programs, and day care homes to provide more nutritious meals to children 12 years of age and younger in non-residential day care settings. The Child Care Food Program was made a permanent program in 1978. A primary purpose of the CACFP is to maintain the health of children by enabling facilities to provide nutritious well balanced meals and snacks to children while in non-residential child care settings and to help develop good eating habits in these children that will serve as a foundation for healthy lifestyles as they grow. In 1989 the name of the program was changed to the CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program) to reflect the addition of an adult component. Adult Day Health Centers could now participate and be reimbursed for nutritious meals served to adults in non-residential settings.

What types of institutions provide benefits?

Child Care Centers - Includes licensed or approved non-residential, public or private non-profit child care centers; and Head Start centers, settlement houses, and neighborhood centers. For-profit child care centers may also participate if they meet certain criteria for serving low-income children. All child care centers must inform the families of all enrolled children about Women Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

Family Day Care Homes - Generally, family day care homes provide care in a licensed or approved private home for a small group of children. Family or group day care homes must be administered by a sponsoring organization that maintains Federal and State regulations, and prepares a monthly food reimbursement claim. The sponsor also receives Federal reimbursement for administrative expenses, based on the number of homes it sponsors. All Family Day Care Sponsors must inform the families of all enrolled children about Women Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

"At-Risk" After School Care Programs - Community based programs that offer enrichment activities for at-risk children and teenagers through the age of 18, after the regular school day ends, can provide free snacks through CACFP. Programs must be offered in areas where at least 50% of the children are eligible for free and reduced price meals based upon the school data.

Emergency Shelters - Which provide residential and food services to homeless children may receive reimbursement for serving up to three meals each day to homeless children through age 18, who reside there.

Adult Day Health Care Centers - Licensed day health care centers that are operated by public agencies for functionally impaired adults may receive cash reimbursements and commodity foods under the adult component of the CACFP. Private organizations, both non-profit and for-profit, are also eligible if they meet certain criteria for serving low-income people.

For more information about how your institution can participate in CACFP:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Steps to Become a CACFP Sponsor
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Unaffiliated Center Site information
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Directory of Family Day Care Sponsors — August 2016
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Administrative Review Procedures for the Child and Adult Care Food Program
Due to the release of the handbook entitled "Serious Deficiency, Suspension, and Appeals for State Agencies and Sponsoring Organizations" in February 2015, the Department has determined it was necessary to revise its procedures for Administrative Review.

The regulations and guidelines of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP or Program) under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide for administrative review of certain actions taken by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department). The regulations governing administrative review can be found at 7 CFR 226.6(k). The administrative review process is also discussed in a handbook entitled "Serious Deficiency, Suspension, & Appeals for State Agencies & Sponsoring Organizations". Please refer to this handbook for additional explanations and information.

Who gets free or reduced-price meals?

Operators of child and adult day care centers get reimbursed at either the free, reduced, or paid rate for the meals they serve to the participants. Meals served to participants from families with income at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are reimbursed at the free rate. In addition, meals are also reimbursed at the free rate for participants receiving certain benefits. Meals served to participants from families with income between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are reimbursed at a reduced rate. Meals served to participants from families with income above 185 percent of the poverty level are reimbursed at the paid rate. See current Income Eligibility Guidelines. For family day care homes, Congress instituted a two-tier system of reimbursements under the welfare reform act of 1996. Under this system, which went into effect July 1, 1997, day care providers located in low-income areas or whose own households are low income, are reimbursed at a single rate (tier 1 reimbursement). Other providers will be reimbursed at a lower rate (tier 2 reimbursement) unless they choose to have their sponsoring organizations identify income-eligible children through use of income applications similar to those used in day care centers. Meals served to such income-eligible children will be reimbursed at the higher tier 1 level.

Fiscal Year 2016 Massachusetts Schools with 50% of Student Enrollment Eligible for Free or Reduced Price Meals in Child Nutrition Programs

How much reimbursement does the Federal Government provide?

CACFP 2016-2017 Reimbursement Rates

Current Training Opportunities

For more information:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Family Information
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Participant Information
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Center Information

Please contact Amy Socolow, Robin Haunton, Irene Sedlacko, Jane Stoleroff or Kristen Torres.

For further details, please contact the USDA Food and Nutrition Service by mail at 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, or visit the FNS programs website.


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USDA Nondiscrimination Statement (English)
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USDA Nondiscrimination Statement (Spanish)
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Civil Rights Complaint Process – PRS


Last Updated: November 22, 2016
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