New study identifies benefits of and challenges to participation in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program by independent child care centers and their sponsors

Oct 31, 2022

The federal Child and Adult Care Food Program provides reimbursements for nutritious meals and snacks for over 4.2 million children in the US at participating child care sites. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers collaborated with the CACFP Roundtable to identify benefits of and barriers to participating in the CACFP by independent child care centers and their sponsors. Nearly one-in-three child care centers participating in CACFP across the nation are considered independent centers, meaning they are independently owned and operated, not owned by a corporation and operate at a single physical site. Through focus groups and interviews conducted with 16 independent centers and 5 sponsors of independent centers in California, December 2021 through March 2022, researchers identified several benefits of and barriers to CACFP participation as well several facilitators to support participation. The study also highlighted the important role sponsors play in supporting independent centers to participate in the CACFP. The participating centers and sponsors were geographically diverse, located across all California Department of Social Services-established CACFP administrative regions, from both rural and non-rural settings. Length of CACFP-participation ranged from one to 10 or more years, and one tribal and one government/military independent center also participated in the study. Findings were published in an article in the journal Nutrients as well as a research brief. The study was conducted by Lorrene Ritchie, Danielle Lee, and Christina Hecht from NPI, in collaboration with Elyse Homel Vitale and Samantha Marshall from the CACFP Roundtable, and Lindsay Beck from the University of California, San Francisco, Nutrition & Food Services. The study was funded by the California Department of Social Services.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist
By Christina EA Hecht
Contributor - UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute Academic Coordinator