March 13, 2024

This week, March 11–16, we join the National CACFP Sponsors Association, program providers, and community partners in celebrating Food Program (CACFP).  CACFP is a federally funded assistance program that provides reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks to those in eligible child care and day care centers.

CACFP has a longstanding history of ensuring children in child care and day care homes, as well as older adults living with disabilities in adult day care centers, receive high-quality, nutritious meals and snacks. Through reimbursements administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, program providers are also able to provide the same high-quality meals and snacks to children attending afterschool programs and residing in emergency shelters.

CACFP Week is not only an opportunity to uplift the many program benefits, but this week serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood nutrition in children from birth to age 5.

Did you know in 2023 over 4.6 million children and adults participated in CACFP with over 1.7 billion meals served? Here in the District of Columbia, over 3.6 million meals were served with an average daily participation rate of more than 25,000 children and adults.

The Impact of the Healthy Tots Act of 2014

According to Bainum Foundation report, “Assessing Child Care Access: Measuring Supply, Demand, Quality, and Shortages in the District of Columbia”, child care providers in the District have a capacity of 78 percent, yet other data sources show only an estimated 33 percent of providers are participating in CACFP. As we work to raise awareness about the importance of increasing participation, we must also amplify the benefits of serving a third meal in CACFP. Through the Healthy Tots Act of 2014, the District of Columbia became the first “state” to offer a third meal to children in child care. This additional meal is served to children regardless of the number of hours they spend in child care. During the initial implementation year, the Healthy Tots Act allocated $3.2 million in local funding to child care centers and day care homes, with the goal of adopting higher nutritional standards for meals and snacks — including offering an additional 25 cents in reimbursement for serving local produce.

The Healthy Tots Act also increased opportunities for participating child care centers and day care homes to apply for grants for physical activity, gardens, nutrition education, and Farm to Early Care and Education Programs.

Advocacy for Early Childhood Nutrition Programs

As we near closer to the release of the District’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget, it is imperative that community partners, program providers, and parents advocate for the ongoing funding for early childhood nutrition programs, especially CACFP.

  • Efficient allocation of the District’s budget will ensure children in child care centers, day care homes, as well as adults living with disabilities attending adult day care centers, continue to have access to healthy and nutritious foods through Healthy Tots grant funding.
  • Increased grant funding also ensures additional reimbursements offered to centers and day care homes for increasing nutrition education opportunities and physical activities.

The goal of CACFP Week is to build community, raise awareness, combat hunger, provide healthy, nutritious foods and increase participation. Let’s come together in the District to uplift the importance of early childhood nutrition in CACFP.

If you are a child care center, day care home, adult day care center or afterschool program looking to supplement your current nutrition programs, enroll in the Child and Adult Care Food Program! To learn more, visit the D.C. Hunger Solutions CACFP webpage.