Child and Adult Care Food Program: Impacts of COVID-19 changes to meal and snack reimbursement rates on family childcare home providers, children and families - Phase 2

Nutrition is the leading cause of chronic illness in the US and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is the only national program addressing childcare nutrition. CACFP provides tiered reimbursements to family childcare homes (FCCHs) to serve healthy foods to greater than 4 million children annually, mostly children under age five from families with low income. However, since 1997, FCCH CACFP participation has declined. To reduce COVID-19 impacts on the nutrition and health of vulnerable young children, all FCCHs on CACFP temporarily receive a higher reimbursement rate.

We are currently collecting survey data from a statewide sample of FCCHs in California supplemented with interviews to capture the ‘voices’ of the childcare community on the impacts of this higher rate. We request funding to repeat data collection with the same stakeholders after the rate decreases in July 2023. We propose a follow-up survey to ~2000 FCCHs and interviews with a subset of FCCH providers, CACFP sponsors, and the families they serve to understand how decreased rates impact them, their business, and the children and families they serve.

  • Does having less money for meals and snacks force providers to decrease the quantity or quality of what is served?
  • Does it make FCCHs less likely to participate in CACFP and result in less nutritious meals and snacks for children?
  • Do families have to pay more for childcare or provide the food themselves with lower CACFP reimbursement?
  • Does the lower rate make it harder for FCCH providers to stay in business?
  • Given that most FCCH providers are themselves low-income, running businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, and that most children at FCCHs are from low-income households, what are the impacts on the food security of the providers and the families they serve?

We hope to answer these important questions to inform improvements to the CACFP to ensure it is better positioned in the future to serve as a safety net for low-income families.

New research brief explores perspectives on the Child and Adult Care Food Program’s serious deficiency process

The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, commonly known as CACFP, ensures over 4.2 million children, mostly in families with low income, receive nutritious meals and snacks in childcare. However, not all qualifying childcare providers participate in this beneficial program. Research suggests that the serious deficiency process, designed to ensure program integrity, may hinder participation. Interviews with ten California CACFP sponsors—who administer the program for family childcare home providers and some centers—highlight key issues. The full research brief, “CACFP Family Childcare Home Sponsor Perspectives - Serious Deficiency Challenges,” was published by the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Berkeley and the CACFP Roundtable. This research is part of a larger project funded by Healthy Eating Research, and national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Phase 2 of this project, Child and Adult Care Food Program: Impacts of COVID-19 changes to meal and snack reimbursement rates on family childcare home providers, children and familiesis funded by CPR3 and will build upon these findings.


  • UC Berkeley
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Roundtable
  • California Department of Social Services, Family Engagement & Empowerment Division (FEED) and the CACFP Branch

Other Children and Adolescents Funded Projects