Welcome to Licensing in Connecticut Child Care Centers and Group Day Care Homes. This brief module is offered as a complement to early care and education college courses that cover health, safety, and nutrition. It's not meant to be exhaustive, but simply to highlight important best practices and key information, as well as to provide you with additional resources.
We have mentioned in other modules that licensed child care centers and group day care homes in Connecticut are required to follow the Child and Adult Care Food Program's meal patterns. This applies whether or not you participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program or CACFP. You may be wondering about the CACFP and whether your program should participate, so let's take a deeper look.
CACFP is a federal food assistance program that provides reimbursement to child care providers when they provide nutritious meals to children in their care. Across the country, over 4 million children receive nutritious meals and snacks every day through CACFP. Qualifying centers, group daycare homes, and family child care providers are able to receive reimbursement for the meals served at different rates, depending on the income eligibility of the children enrolled in their programs.
These are some of the highlights for what is required when child care providers participate in CACFP. The USDA nutrition standards are met by following the meal patterns, which I said previously - all Connecticut licensed child care centers and group daycare homes must follow the meal pattern, even if you don't participate in the program.
Another overlap between Connecticut licensing requirements and CACFP is that drinking water must be available to children throughout the day. CACFP has some rules about the types of foods that can be served in addition to the meal pattern that further increase the nutritional quality of the foods served by keeping the unhealthy fats and added sugars low while encouraging fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
If you participate in CACFP, there's lots of guidance available to help you determine whether foods will be counted and meals will be eligible for reimbursement.
So, what are some of the reasons that child care providers participate in CACFP? The biggest reason is because the reimbursement helps cover the cost of providing nutritious meals to the children in care.
Since licensed centers and group daycare homes are required to follow the meal pattern anyway, participating for the reimbursement makes some sense. All child care providers, whether centers, group homes, or family child care homes, will also be able to participate in free training and support for creating menus and selecting appropriate foods.
And research also shows that child care providers who participate in CACFP serve healthier meals and snacks compared to those who do not participate.
So now you may wonder can all child care providers participate in CACFP? The answer is not all, but in general most providers are eligible to participate.