Priority Policy

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Obesity prevention is a lifelong effort

The Child and Adult Food Care Program 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 4.2 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.

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.


The following CACFP recommendations come from State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, 2018 produced by Trust for America’s Health and RWJF.

• States should follow expert guidance and adopt and implement best practices—including by investment in Quality Improvement Rating Systems—for nutrition, activity and screen time requirements and regulations covering child care and day care settings.

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CACFP Participants CONSUME more key nutrients

Studies show that children in CACFP receive meals that are nutritionally superior to those served to children in comparable child care settings without CACFP. Children receiving 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 when compared to children whose meals were brought from home.

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Fast Facts


In fiscal year 2017, CACFP provided more than 2 billion total meals and snacks to children and adults.

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Congress provided $2.4 billion in additional Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding in FY18, nearly doubling the program’s budget and representing the largest single-year increase in the history of the program. The CCDBG supports CACFP nationwide.

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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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Originally posted in August 2018.