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or obtain approval from a state or local agency; (2) the provision of financial incentives through P.L. 95-627, in 1978, to expand participation; (3) the change from pilot program status to the permanent Child Care Food Program, also in 1978; and (4) authorization for the adult care component following the enactment of the Older Americans Act of 1987, which resulted in the renaming of the program to the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

CACFP has expanded greatly since its inception as a pilot program (USDA/FNS, 2010d), both in terms of the number of participants served and the types of care programs that are eligible. CACFP currently serves more than 3 million children and adults across the United States and two of its territories: Puerto Rico and Guam. Table 2-3 summarizes key information about program characteristics and program participation and illustrates the diversity of settings and the broad reach of the program.



CACFP is authorized by Section 17 of the National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1766). Regulations for program administration are issued by USDA under 7 C.F.R. Part 226. The CACFP program is administrated by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service through grants to states. At the state level, the state education agency is the usual administrator. In a few states, CACFP is administered by an alternate agency, such as the state health or social services department. The child care component and the adult day care component of CACFP may be administered by different agencies within a state at the discretion of the governor. Independent centers and sponsoring organizations enter into agreements with their administering state agencies to assume administrative and financial responsibility for CACFP operations. Day care homes may participate in the CACFP only under the auspices of a sponsoring organization. Several types of organizations, such as community action agencies and nonprofit organizations, are approved by states to serve as sponsors. Sponsoring organizations provide payment to sponsored day care providers for meals and snacks that meet requirements and are allowed nonfood meal services. The following discussions cover requirements for current meal patterns and key aspects of meal reimbursement.

Current Meal Patterns

CACFP facilities must follow the current meal patterns to receive reimbursement for the meals. The meal patterns for children and adults make use of up to four meal components:

  • Fluid milk,

  • Fruits/vegetables,

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