Building for the Future

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP or “Food Program”), is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that reimburses for nutritious meals and snacks for children in child care, afterschool programs, and emergency shelters as well as adults enrolled in day care.
“Each day, more than 4.2 million children receive nutritious meals and snacks through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.”
~ USDA, Food and Nutrition Service

How Does the Food Program Work?



(Nutrition Works)


Types of Food Program Care Sites

Child care centers: licensed child care centers and Head Start programs provide day care with meals and snacks to large numbers of children
In-home child care: licensed providers offer in-home child care with free meals and snacks to small groups of children in private homes
After School Care Programs: sites (such as schools, libraries, centers) in low-income areas provide learning or enrichment activities with free meals or snacks to school-age children and youth
Emergency shelters: homeless, domestic violence, and runaway youth shelters provide places to live with free meals for children and youth
Adult day care centers: licensed centers provide day care with meals and snacks to enrolled adults

Food Program Meals

CACFP nutrition standards, or Meal Pattern, consists of five components: grain, meat/meat alternate, fruit, vegetable, and milk. Each reimbursable meal—breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper contain a combination of the five food groups and a minimum serving size based on the age of the child or adult.


Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Milk

Lunch or Supper

Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Meat or Meat Alternate, Milk


Two different servings of the following:
Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Meat or Meat Alternate, Milk

Food Program Meal Eligibility

  • Children under age 13
  • Migrant children under age 16
  • Children and youth under age 19 in afterschool programs in low-income areas
  • Children and youths ages 24 and under who live in homeless shelters, and
  • Adults who are impaired or over age 60 and enrolled in adult day care

Learn About the Sponsoring Organization Nutrition Works