Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Kids at a table eating food.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Obesity prevention is a lifelong effort

The Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) provides federal funding to states to reimburse providers for the cost of providing nutritious meals and snacks to children and adults in their care. Providers that participate in the program, which helps feed more than 4.3 million children and 130,000 adults each year, must serve meals that meet minimum nutrition standards to receive reimbursement. In 2017, updated nutrition standards for meals provided through CACFP took effect, the first major changes in nearly 50 years. The new standards require more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, fewer added sugars, and less saturated fat.


• CACFP should be expanded to allow the option of a third meal service.

• CACFP should continue streamlining program operations and paperwork to allow for easier enrollment.

• CACFP should continue to fund nutrition and wellness education and program efforts.

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CACFP Connections to Early Care & Education

The majority of states do not connect their early care and education licensing standards to CACFP. This means that state licensing requirements do not update automatically with any updates to CACFP.

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Featured Studies and Resources


New Rule Should Improve the Nutritional Quality of CACFP-Funded Meals & Snacks

A 2017 health impact assessment by Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that the updated nutrition standards will have a positive overall impact on children’s health by improving the nutritional quality of CACFP-funded meals and snacks and increasing children’s intake of whole grains and vegetables.

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CACFP Participants Consume More Key Nutrients

Studies show that children in CACFP receive meals that are more nutritious  to those served to children in comparable child care settings without CACFP. Children enrolled in CACFP had significantly higher intakes of key nutrients (like protein, vitamins, and minerals), consumed more fruits and vegetables, and consumed fewer fats and sweets.

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Children with Access to CACFP More Likely to be Healthy

An analysis by Children’s HealthWatch of children ages 1-3 found that those with access to CACFP were less likely to be in fair or poor health, less likely to be hospitalized, and more likely to have a healthy weight and height for their age compared with children whose meals were brought from home.

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Fast Facts


In fiscal year 2018, CACFP provided more than 2 billion total meals and snacks to children and adults.

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29 states encourage enhanced nutrition standards that go beyond federal requirements in their CACFP program.

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23 states and Washington, D.C. connect their Early Childhood Education licensing standards to CACFP so that the state licensing requirements update automatically to correspond with any updates to CACFP.

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Data to Share

Updated nutrition standards for CACFP meals are predicted to reduce the risk of being obese or overweight among CACFP-enrolled children, with the potential to provide the greatest benefit to Latino and Black children in families with low income.
Among low-income children, CACFP participation moderately increases consumption of milk and vegetables, and may also reduce the prevalence of overweight and underweight.
19 states promote or provide specific early care and education obesity prevention interventions to providers who participate in CACFP.