The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides meals and snacks to children at family day care homes, child care centers, homeless shelters, and after-school programs, and to older or functionally impaired adults at adult day care centers. In fiscal 2014, more than 3.6 million children and 120,118 adults received CACFP meals and snacks on an average day. Total cost to USDA for CACFP in fiscal 2014 was $3.1 billion.
Meals and snacks provided through CACFP can be especially important to working parents, playing a role in improving day care quality and making day care more affordable for recipients. In child care centers, meals and snacks are reimbursed at either free, reduced-price, or full rate, depending on children's family income—similar to the reimbursement structure for school meals. In day care homes, meals are reimbursed either at tier 1 rates—rates which provide higher levels of reimbursement to low-income areas, providers, or children—or at lower tier 2 rates. The number of children participating in CACFP through child care centers has grown, so that total participation has increased, despite the drop in participation of children attending family day care homes, as shown, in this chart.
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As part of the changes required by Congressional reauthorization of the program in 2010, CACFP is allowed to provide suppers to children attending after-school programs in high-need areas, where at least 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals (see After-School Snacks and Suppers). In addition, reauthorizating legislation required USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to develop new nutrition standards for CACFP meals and snacks that better reflect current Federal dietary guidance. In January 2015, USDA released a proposed rule that would update nutrition standards for meals provided through CACFP (see Child and Adult Care Food Program). Meals that meet the proposed standards would include a greater variety of vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat.