By Karen Kopacz, Director of CACFP
March is National Nutrition Month – a time to focus our attention on the importance of making nutritious food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. What a great time to sign up for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)!
CACFP is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program helps registered, licensed, and legally exempt providers by reimbursing them for serving healthy and nutritious meals and snacks to children up to age 13 enrolled in their care. The reimbursement from the food program enables providers to purchase high-quality, nutritious food to meet requirements of the program and get children started on the right path of healthy eating.
Child care plays a significant role in shaping the nutrition and physical habits of children. CACFP helps children grow healthy and strong. Many children are in care over eight hours each day and eat the majority of their meals in child care. Starting children off on the right foot with serving nutritious meals to them at a young age will teach them healthy eating habits which will last a lifetime. Participating in CACFP can make sure that these nutrition habits are good ones. Participating in CACFP is a sign of high-quality care. CACFP can play an important role in obesity prevention by educating caregivers about child nutrition and the prevention of obesity.
Providers participating in CACFP receive regular training and guidance about many nutrition, mealtime, and child development topics. There is annual training on health, nutrition, and updates around policy and procedure changes. Providers also receive on-site assistance from their CACFP Specialist numerous times throughout the year at their child care program.
Along with getting reimbursement for serving children healthy and nutritious meals and free training, participating in CACFP is a benefit to parents as well. Parents know their children are eating safe, healthy meals and snacks. Parents know their children are learning about nutritious meals and the benefits of eating healthy. It saves families time and money as well, as they do not have to pack food to bring to child care.
Communities, as well as child care providers and families, benefit through CACFP. Studies show children enrolled in CACFP have healthier diets and are not sick as often as other children. CACFP payments to providers help reduce child care costs for working families. If you are not already participating in the CACFP program and are interested in learning more and signing up to receive payment for serving healthy and nutritious meals, please contact Child Care Resource Network’s CACFP department at 716-877-6666 Ext: 3093.