The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides federal funding to states to reimburse child care programs and other providers for serving nutritious food. More than 4.2 million children and 138,000 adults participate each year.1 Providers, including early care and education programs and out-of-school time providers, must serve meals that meet minimum nutrition standards to receive reimbursement.2 CACFP’s nutrition standards are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Research shows that participating in CACFP improves food security3 among families with children; moderately increases children’s consumption of vegetables and milk,4 and may reduce prevalence of overweight.5
Updated nutrition standards for CACFP took effect in 2017, the first major changes in nearly 50 years. These standards require more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, fewer added sugars, and less saturated fat. Participating centers are serving healthier foods,6 including fewer sugary drinks and more whole grains. One study of early care and education centers in Native American communities7 found that fiber consumption increased and sugar consumption decreased following implementation of the updated standards.