Providing Americans access to nutrition is an important goal of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides reimbursements for healthy meals and snacks to eligible children and adults who attend a participating child care center, day care home, or adult day care. The program also provides nutrition services to children participating in afterschool care programs, children residing in emergency shelters, and adults over the age of 60 or living with a disability and enrolled in day care centers.
Participating centers and day care homes offering meals through the CACFP play an important role in supporting the wellness, health, and development of children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities through providing nutritious meals. Importantly, participating child care providers have an opportunity to encourage healthy habits in young children that serve as a foundation for a healthy life.
The CACFP is for centers and not individuals. Individuals do not apply for this program directly but can become eligible for benefits if their care center is a participant. If you are currently enrolled in a child care or adult care center, inquire about the CACFP with your program coordinators. Participating centers may automatically offer services to certain groups. These include children who are participants of Head Start or Early Head Start programs. Other groups that may benefit automatically include foster children, who are the responsibility of the state or placed by the court, and children who are experiencing homelessness, are also automatically eligible.
If you are representing a care center looking to participate in the program, please visit the Child and Adult Care Food Program page.
State agencies are responsible for monitoring institutions participating in CACFP to ensure compliance with meal pattern, recordkeeping, and other Program requirements. Contact your state’s Department of Education to learn about participating institutions in the state you reside in. To search for your state’s contact information, please use the FNS Contact List.
The program reimburses care centers for many different meals, depending on the type of program the center runs. While not all participating care centers will supply the same meals, some of the meals that can be reimbursed by CACFP include:
Each of the meals served by participating programs must meet nutritional requirements set by the FNS CACFP “meal patterns”, which have nutrition standards for meals and snacks based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and recommendations made by the National Academy of Medicine. Under these standards, meals and snacks served at care centers participating in CACFP include a greater variety of vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and less added sugar and saturated fat. Additionally, the meal pattern standards encourage breastfeeding and better align the CACFP with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and with other child nutrition programs.
To learn more about other food and nutrition benefits available, please visit the Food and Nutrition category page. Filter by state or by subcategory to narrow your search.
If you need food help today, you may also call the National Hunger Hotline. Hotline staff can help you find food near where you live:
1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (en Español)