When children leave their learning environment, it’s hard to imagine that one in six of them are going to a food insecure household. In fact, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), an estimated 11.8 % of American households were food insecure at least some time during 2017. Food insecure, says the USDA, means families lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
In Maryland, 16.3 % of children under 18 are living in households that experienced limited availability of nutritious meals at some point during the year, says Feeding America. However, the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is helping to ensure Maryland’s children and adults don’t have to go hungry.
In Maryland, the CACFP is administered by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs. The CACFP helps child care centers, adult day care centers, family child care, after-school programs, and emergency shelters provide nutritious meals and snacks throughout the year. Participating programs receive financial reimbursements for serving meals and snacks that meet federal nutritional guidelines.
“Meals and snacks are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate,” said Lucy Ann Amos, the CACFP Training Specialist for MSDE’s Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs. “The CACFP also offers child-approved recipes that meet meal pattern requirements such as chicken fajitas, potatoes au gratin, pumpkin muffin squares, and whole grain dinner rolls.”
Reimbursements paid to providers are based on how many meals were served each month. Reimbursement rates are determined by the USDA, and vary based on the income eligibility of participants. All CACFP-participating providers are required to complete annual training and submit monthly claims and other program information to the MSDE Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs.
“Eligible programs also participate in free trainings for Core of Knowledge credit,” said Amos. “They also have access to grant opportunities and free nutrition education resources.”
Between October 2017 and September 2018, Maryland CACFP agencies served nearly 31 million meals for a total of over $52 million that was distributed statewide in reimbursements. Two Maryland CACFP agencies, CentroNía and the Carroll Child Care and Learning Center, have won the USDA’s CACFP Achievement Awards for their exceptional work in program integrity, meal quality, nutrition education, wellness, and farm to CACFP in 2018 and 2019.
“Families can feel confident that the program serves high-quality meals that contribute to the health, development and wellness of their family members,” said Amos.
Find more information about the CACFP program on their website. Providers are welcome to access program-related videos created by the MSDE Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs under the “Resources” section on the office’s website.