The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides reimbursements for meals served to children, youth, and families participating in afterschool care programs, those residing in emergency shelters, and those in at-risk centers.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) authorized the USDA to reimburse CACFP institutions that are emergency shelters for meal services to young adults. In addition, it raised the age limit for reimbursable meals and snacks served to people under 25 in a congregate meal setting. These changes were effective March 11, 2021, and are until the health emergency is lifted. To learn more, see USDA Policy Guidance: CACFP 08-2021, CACFP 12-2021.

CACFP + Emergency Shelters

Definition of emergency shelter: “…a public or private nonprofit organization or its site that provides temporary shelter and food services to homeless children, including a residential child care institution (RCCI) that serves a distinct group of homeless children who are not enrolled in the RCCI’s regular program.” (7 CFR 226.2)

CACFP Requirements for Emergency Shelters:

  • Provide temporary housing for homeless individuals
  • Young people age 18 (or under):
    • If you serve 18 to 25-year-olds, you will qualify as long as you serve 18-year olds and meet the other requirements.
    • If you serve minors only, you will qualify as long as you meet the other requirements.
  • A public or private nonprofit organization
  • No licensing requirements (can be licensed or not licensed)
  • Health and safety standards
  • Agreement as an independent or sponsored center 
  • Streamlined paperwork

Meal Service Requirements in Emergency Shelters:

  • Free nutritious meals 
  • Breakfast, lunch, and supper 
  • Meal pattern for ages 13 through 18
  • Free rates of reimbursement 

CACFP + At-Risk Centers

Definition of At-Risk Center: “…a public or private nonprofit organization that is participating or is eligible to participate in the CACFP as an institution or as a sponsored facility and that provides nonresidential child care to children after school through an approved afterschool care program located in an eligible area. However, as defined in this section, an emergency shelter may participate as an at-risk afterschool care center without regard to location.” (7 CFR 226.2)

Participation by At-Risk Centers Under ARP:

  • From March 11 enactment, during COVID-19
  • Reimbursement for at-risk centers operated by emergency shelters
  • Meals and snacks served to young adults under 25 and receiving assistance 

CACFP Requirements for At-Risk Centers:

  • Outside schooltime education and enrichment 
    • At-risk centers must offer nonresidential programs that include education or enrichment activities  
    • Young adults must receive services, including food and nonresidential assistance
  • Young people 18 (or under)
  • A public or private nonprofit organization
  • No area eligibility restrictions for shelters
  • No Federal licensing requirements 
  • Health and safety standards
  • Agreement as an independent or sponsored center 
  • Streamlined paperwork

How to Participate in CACFP 

Why Participate in CACFP?

  • Steady source of Federal funds
  • Meal service and nutrition education resources
  • Flexibility, variety, and balanced nutrition to meet the dietary needs of young adults
  • Retroactive Reimbursement
    • Request retroactive reimbursement for meals and snacks served to begin on March 11
    • Submit revised March 2021 claims for reimbursement to the State agency

How can emergency shelters and at-risk centers participate in CACFP?

  • There are two options for participation—either as an independent center or as a facility under a sponsoring organization. Less paperwork may make it easier to participate as a sponsored facility.
  • Required records for reimbursement: Emergency shelters must keep attendance, meal counts, and a list of young people by an identifier and date of birth. There is no need to separately track the participation of young adults from other meal service recipients.
  • How to document nonprofit foodservice operations: The USDA requires is a simple record of foodservice revenues and expenditures that demonstrates that the CACFP reimbursement supports and improves the meal service for young people.

If you are an emergency shelter that wants to participate or need more information, reach out to your CACFP State agency contact.


July 8, 2021

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