Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) helps child care providers serve nutritious meals and snacks to children in their care. With over 1 in 5 children in the United States living in a food insecure household, CACFP plays a vital role in improving the quality of care in communities across the country.

How CACFP Works

The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides healthy meals to preschool children in day care centers and child care homes at a free or reduced-price. CACFP also provides free meals to homeless children residing in eligible emergency shelters. CACFP’s “At-Risk” Afterschool Care Program provides free snacks to low-income children in afterschool supervised educational or enrichment activities. Afterschool Programs may be operated by schools, churches, local parks and recreation departments, and other community organizations. Programs must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

CACFP is administered at the federal level by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. CACFP is an entitlement program that guarantees a set reimbursement for each qualifying meal or snack served. In the majority of states, the program is administered by the state educational agency. CACFP programs receive a cash reimbursement for each meal or snack served. Meals served through CACFP only qualify for cash reimbursement if they meet the federal nutrition guidelines but meal patterns vary depending on the age of participants. USDA also makes commodity foods available to institutions participating in CACFP. A January 2012 study rated the USDA foods provided through CACFP a score of 65.0 on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), much higher than the average American diet score of 57.5. [i]


[i] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Nutrient and MyPyramid Analysis of USDA Foods in Five of Its Food and Nutrition Programs (PDF), Table 3-47. January 2012.


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