A federal bill has been introduced which would increase the meal reimbursement rate for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
CACFP is a federal program that provides after-school meals and snacks to students in low income areas who participate in after-school programing.
Introduced by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the Child Care Nutrition Act would increase the reimbursement rates for all eligible meals and snacks by 10 cents. From that point onward, the reimbursement rate would then be tied to inflation.
The bill would also eliminate the program’s two-tiered reimbursement rate, enabling child care providers to obtain the highest reimbursement rate regardless of income.
“Every child deserves access to nutritious meals, especially during their formative years,” said Senator Bob Casey in a statement. “The research is clear: the CACFP improves the quality of meals in child care settings. By easing the burden on child care providers, the Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act will ensure that children are receiving healthy and nutritious meals and are set up to reach their full potential.”
A companion bill has also been introduced in the house by Representative Greg Landsman (D-Ohio).
This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to make changes to the CACFP. The Universal Free Meal Program Act of 2023 introduced earlier this year would also get rid of the program's two-tired reimbursement rate.
After-school meal participation has dropped for the first time since 2010, according to a recent study by the Food Research and Action Center. The report’s authors credit rising food costs, labor shortages and the expiration of pandemic-era waivers which allowed all communities (including high-income areas) to serve after-school suppers as the reasons why participation has decreased.