As children end their daily learning activities, it is an uncomfortable reality that some find themselves in a food-insecure household. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), an estimated 11.1 % of American families were food insecure at least some time during 2018.
Food insecurity means families lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, according to the USDA. With the recent unemployment increases and COVID-19, that figure has likely grown. According to Feeding America’s Map the Food Gap 2020 Report, 16.1% of children under 18 in Maryland live in households that experienced limited availability of nutritious meals at some point during the year. Unemployment claims have most likely contributed to this rate increase.
More than ever, families and child care providers recognize the importance of the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to ensure that Maryland’s children and adults don’t go hungry.
In Maryland, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs administers the CACFP. The CACFP assists child care centers, adult day care centers, family child care, after-school programs, and emergency shelters in providing 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, fruit parfaits, 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, maintain records of meals served, and provide other program information to the MSDE Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs.
“Eligible programs also participate in free training for Core of Knowledge credit,” said Amos. “They also have access to grant opportunities and free nutrition education resources.”
Between October 2018 and September 2019, Maryland CACFP agencies served nearly 31 million meals for over $53 million in reimbursements distributed statewide.
“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.
For more information about the CACFP program, refer to USDA’s website. Providers can also access program-related videos on the MSDE Office of School and Community Nutrition Programs website (scroll down to CACFP section in Training and Technical Assistance).