Congress established the Child Care Food Program in 1968 to ensure that low-income children were receiving nutritious meals away from home. The program expanded over the next two decades to cover a wider variety of child care settings, and in 1987, centers caring for disabled and older adults were also included. Today, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) serves over 3.5 million meals per day and nearly two billion meals per year in child care centers, family child care homes, after school programs, homeless shelters, and adult day care centers. Because most of these meals are served to children under five, CACFP plays a major role in the nutrition of the youngest Americans.
BPC’s Prevention Initiative co-chairs Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann M. Veneman are pleased to support the proposed rule from USDA to update the meal pattern for this program for the first time since its inception in 1968. Nutrition in America has come a long way since then, and concerns about nutrition have been refined and updated to include the latest dietary guidance on sugar, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, among other things. To reflect the evolving state of nutrition science, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required that the CACFP meal pattern be reviewed and updated every 10 years to reflect the latest dietary guidelines.
The proposed rule would require an increase in whole grains, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, breastfeeding promotion, and less juice, sugar, and fried food in meals served through the program. These changes reflect four recommendations made in our 2012 report, Lots to Lose: How America’s Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future:
- USDA should ensure that all its nutrition assistance programs reflect and support federal dietary guidelines.
- USDA should identify and pursue further opportunities to promote health and nutrition through its nutrition assistance program.
- Childcare providers should improve nutrition and physical activity opportunities for preschool-aged children.
- All key institutions should support and promote breastfeeding with the goal of substantially increasing U.S. breastfeeding rates for the first six months of an infant’s life.
BPC’s Prevention Initiative applauds USDA for the proposed changes, which represent an important step in aligning all federal feeding programs with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.