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Child Nutrition FAQs

Frequently asked questions

We have captured many frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding the different meal programs and services offered by our office. These questions are grouped by programs or services. Please select the program or service that you want to view. This section will be updated with additional questions and answers based on conferences and calls to our Help Desk.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

What is CACFP?

CACFP is the Child and Adult Care Food Program, a Federal program that provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care.  It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making it more affordable for many low-income families.

CACFP reimburses participating centers and day care homes for their meal costs.  It is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The State education or health department administers CACFP, in most States.  Independent centers and sponsoring organizations enter into agreements with their State agencies to operate the program.

What types of facilities provide CACFP benefits?

Child Care Centers.  Public or private nonprofit child care centers, Head Start programs, and some for-profit centers which are licensed or approved to provide day care may serve meals and snacks to infants and children through CACFP.

Family Day Care Homes. CACFP provides reimbursement for meals and snacks served to small groups of children receiving nonresidential day care in licensed or approved private homes. A family or group day care home must sign an agreement with a sponsoring organization to participate in CACFP.  The sponsoring organization organizes training, conducts monitoring, and helps with planning menus and filling out reimbursement forms.

Homeless Shelters.  Emergency shelters which provide residential and food services to homeless families may participate in CACFP. Unlike most other CACFP facilities, a shelter does not have to be licensed to provide day care. 

Adult Day Care Centers. Public, private nonprofit, and some for-profit adult day care facilities which provide structured, comprehensive services to functionally impaired, nonresident adults may participate in CACFP.

At Risk After School Program. Public or Private Nonprofit organizations that provide organized regularly schedule education or enrichment activities and located in an attendance area of school where at least 50 percent or more of the children are eligible for free and reduced price meals [7CFR 226.2; 7CFR 226.17a(b)]. Afterschool care programs in low-income areas can participate in CACFP by providing free snacks to school-aged children and youths through age 18.

Who gets CACFP meals and snacks?

Children age 12 and younger are eligible to receive up to two meals and one snack, each day, at a day care home or center, through CACFP. Children who reside in homeless shelters may receive up to three reimbursable meals each day. Migrant children age 15 and younger, and persons with disabilities, regardless of their age, are also eligible for CACFP. Afterschool care snacks are available to children through age 18. Adult participants must be functionally impaired or age 60 or older, and enrolled in an adult care center where they may receive up to two meals and one snack, each day, through CACFP.

How much does CACFP cost and how many people does it serve?

In Fiscal Year 2001, USDA reimbursed $1.7 billion to institutions participating in CACFP. In December 2001, CACFP provided meals to 2.6 million children and 74,000 adults. Compare CACFP today with the program in:

1995:2.3 million children and 44,000 adults participated at a cost of $1.5 billion.
1990:1.5 million children and 18,000 adults participated at a cost of $812.9 million
1985:1 million children participated at a cost of $452.1 million.
1980: 663,000 children participated at a cost of $236.4 million.
1975: 375,000 children participated at a cost of $51 million.

How many meals do participants receive each day?

At most sites, children receive either one or two reimbursable meals each day. Camps and sites that primarily serve migrant children may be approved to serve up to three meals to each child, each day.


Purchasing and Food Distribution

Purchasing and Food Distribution


What is the Statewide Purchasing program?

The program provides participants with a source for procuring frozen, refrigerated and dry foods as well as dairy, ice cream and fresh produce that allow operators the ability to provide meals to children that meet federal meal pattern regulations. In addition, complex and cumbersome contracting responsibilities are completed by the State agency instead of the participating organizations.


Who can participate?

Participating organizations are mostly public K-12 schools but the cooperative also includes several Head Start organizations and some private, parochial, K-12 schools. Organizations must already have an agreement to offer reimbursable meals with the Office of Child Nutrition.


How do I sign up?

To participate contact the Office of Child Nutrition by calling 601-576-5000.


Summer Food Service Program

How many meals do participants receive each day?

At most sites, children receive either one or two reimbursable meals each day. Camps and sites that primarily serve migrant children may be approved to serve up to three meals to each child, each day.


Who is eligible to get meals?

Children 18 and younger may receive free meals and snacks through SFSP. Meals and snacks are also available to persons with disabilities, over age 18, who participate in school programs for people who are mentally or physically disabled.

Where does the program operate?

States approve SFSP meal sites as open, enrolled, or camp sites. Open sites operate in low-income areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level, making them eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. Meals are served free to any child at the open site. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children enrolled in an activity program at the site where at least half of them are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Camps may also participate in SFSP. They receive payments only for the meals served to children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

How does the program operate?

The Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administers SFSP at the Federal level. State education agencies administer the program in most States. In some areas, the State health or social service department or an FNS regional office may be designated. Locally, SFSP is run by approved sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, or private nonprofit organizations. Sponsors provide free meals to a group of children at a central site, such as a school or a community center. They receive payments from USDA, through their State agencies, for the meals they serve and for their documented operating costs.

What is the Summer Food Service Program?

Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child's need for good nutrition. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow, throughout the summer months when they are out of school.