The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federally funded nutrition program that reimburses childcare providers to ensure children from low-income families receive healthy meals and snacks during their stay.

Currently, the CACFP helps to feed 4.2 million children across the country. But this year, the food program is primed to be a lifeline for more than just families in need.

With so many childcare providers hit by the financial impact of COVID-19, the CACFP serves up a new revenue source for struggling centers, particularly ones that wouldn’t qualify for the program before the pandemic.

In this article, you’ll learn why it pays to (re)explore your CACFP eligibility and how participating in the program can improve the health of your business and get you through the economic downturn and beyond.

Higher Unemployment Means More Families in Need

More people are out of work or making less money today than when the pandemic started. The result is more families are qualifying for childcare assistance like never before.  

To meet the growing need, the CARES Act of 2020 awarded an additional $3.5 billion to the Child Care and Development Fund, which provides government assistance to parents for their childcare needs due to work, work-related training, and school.

Families who qualify for childcare assistance will also qualify for free or reduced-price meals for their children. The threshold to qualify is basically any family who falls at or below 185% of the poverty level. Based on 2020-2021 guidelines, that’s the equivalent of $48,470 in annual income for a family of four.

Your Center Could Already Be Eligible to Participate

If your center wouldn’t qualify to participate in the CACFP before the pandemic, it’s worth another look as more families become eligible for childcare assistance because of job loss or reduced work hours.

The CACFP is automatically available to all non-profit childcare centers. If you’re a for-profit center, you can qualify for the food program if your total enrollment or (license capacity) includes at least 25% of families who qualify for free or reduced-priced meals or receive Social Security Title XX funding.

The food program is administered at the state level, so each state may have additional requirements to participate. You can find links to your state agency here.  

Reimbursements Can Be a New Revenue Source for Centers

The food program offers childcare centers substantial funding for meals and snacks they serve that meet the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) recommended guidelines. On average, the monthly reimbursement for a center enrolling 75 children is $3,500.

Reimbursements are based on the type of each meal served (breakfast, lunch/dinner, or snack) and the level of assistance a child is eligible for (free, reduced-price, or paid).

Centers can use their monthly CACFP reimbursement to help offset the cost of labor, like a cook, teacher, or administrative staff, and of course, any food purchased for meals and snacks that were served. 

Attract and Serve More Families by Participating in the CACP

Reimbursements are far from the only benefit of participating in the food program. For instance:

  • When you participate in the CACFP, you gain a competitive advantage because your center will stand out from the crowd. Remember, more families are qualifying for assistance, and they will automatically rule out providers who don’t offer benefits of participating in the food program.
  • Participation in the CACFP is a reliable indicator that your center provides quality childcare. In fact, participating in the CACFP is often required by states in order to receive their highest quality rating.
  • With the CACFP, children receive and come to appreciate nutritious foods that are vital to a lifetime of health and well-being. In practical terms, this means children in your care will most likely be better behaved and less likely to be fatigued or ill, which also benefits parents because they won’t have to miss work to take care of a sick child.

The CACFP is a win-win for everyone – children, families, and childcare centers like yours.

To find out if your center is eligible to participate, contact your state CACFP administrator. You can also find lots of information about the food program on the USDA’s website.

The team here at KidKare by Minute Menu hopes you found this article helpful. That’s what we’re all about. Our software makes participating in the CACFP much easier and even maximizes your reimbursements with one click. Check it out!

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