Early Childhood Integrated Financing Toolkit

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP or “the food program”)

Federal Funding Streams: Requirements and Detailed Information


Federal Agency: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
Federal Funds for VA: $1,384,914 (FY 19)
$306 per child living at <185% of FPL; $105 less than national average[1]
What Are the Main Requirements?
How do Federal Funds Flow?
The CACFP is a nutrition program that provides reimbursements to child care providers for nutritious foods served to children in care. (CACFP also supports older adults and chronically impaired persons with disabilities in care settings; for the purposes of the report, the focus will be on young children in care.)


Participant Eligibility:
Children through the age of 12 are eligible to participate in this program. All children will receive meals free of charge, regardless of family income level. Providers receive reimbursement funds for meals based on children/families income eligibility.
There is no cost to families for participation in the CACFP.


Provider Eligibility:
Public or private nonprofit child care centers, outside-school-hours care centers, Early Head Start/Head Start programs, licensed or voluntarily registered family day homes, and approved subsidy vendors may participate. For profit programs may qualify only if at least 25% of children in the program qualify for free or reduced price meals or receive Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds.


How it works:
Providers receive reimbursement for meals based on the income of the families of the children enrolled in their care.
Meals served to children whose family participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or their family income is at or below 130% of FPL, are reimbursed at the Free rate.
Meals served to children whose family income is between 130-185% of FPL are reimbursed at the Reduced rate.
Reimbursement is also provided for meals served to children whose family income is above the FPL.
Children in families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), as well as children in Head Start or Early Head Start, are categorically eligible for the Free rate of reimbursement, as are children in foster care.


Quality Standards:
Programs must follow USDA Federal Nutrition Services regulations and standards for nutritious meals and snacks, participate in CACFP training, and maintain required documentation such as current participant eligibility, management plan and budget, monitoring, attendance, meal counts, menus, receipts, etc.
CACFP funds flow from the USDA, to the Food and Nutrition Services Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, to the VA Department of Health (VDH), to individual child care centers and sponsoring organizations in agreements with VDH, and then to child care centers and family day homes supported by sponsoring organizations.


Child care centers have two paths to participation in this program:
1) Child care centers can work with a sponsoring organization. The sponsoring organization assumes financial and administrative responsibility for overseeing CACFP participation for multiple child care providers. Sponsoring organizations provide training, monitoring, and reimbursements to these providers. Sponsoring organizations may provide meals instead of reimbursements to providers.
2) Child care centers can work directly with VDH.  The child care center is financially and administratively responsible for their own CACFP participation. VDH provides training, monitoring, and reimbursements to these providers.


Family home providers are required by USDA to work with a sponsoring organization.


Child care providers may submit monthly claims for each meal served, by type, per child, up to:
two meals (breakfast, lunch, or supper) and one snack, or
two snacks and one meal.
[1] Federal Nutrition Service Data