As food costs continue to rise, more home-based child care providers are seeking information about federally subsidized nutrition programs.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative for licensed family child care homes established to help children receive the nutrition they need. The reimbursement plan can make a substantial difference in the quality of food children receive and in providers’ bottom lines. Quality nutrition is critical throughout a person’s lifespan, but the National Institutes of Health lists access to healthy food in early childhood as a key factor in later learning success and overall health.
Free application assistance is available
Rainbow Fleet Resource and Referral offers free application assistance with full-time staff to help licensed home child care providers get started.
“Licensed providers can claim up to two meals and one snack per day for reimbursement on qualifying meals served when they meet USDA-established standards,” said Rainbow Fleet Child and Adult Care Food Program Coordinator Jaylyn Ivison.
Current reimbursement rates are $1.66 for breakfasts, $3.04 for lunches and dinners and $0.97 for snacks served in compliance with the specified guidelines. Providers are also reimbursed for enrolled infants who drink breastmilk, and all affiliated providers are required to provide Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program pamphlets
In November 2022, Rainbow Fleet received claims for 14,922 breakfasts, 16,233 lunches, 7,654 dinners and 23,208 snacks. Reimbursements totaled more than $120,000 to home-based child care providers with an average return of $800.
“While it is easy to get lost in the numbers, it is so important for our family daycare home providers to realize the difference they are making daily by serving a well-balanced meal before and after school,” said Ivison. “It is vital for children to receive nutritious foods so they can learn and grow to the best of their ability. Our goal at Rainbow Fleet is for all providers to feel confident in the meals they serve and to be reimbursed adequately.”
Convenient scheduling for applicants
Ivison also recognizes the need for nutrition education on a flexible schedule.
”Whether providers are just getting started as a new business or have offered child care for years, they can apply at any time. We work with providers at their pace to complete paperwork and set up site visits. There is no set timeline, so it can still be a fit with the ins and outs of running a child care center.”
Start the process
The process begins with an initial phone consultation and a pre-approval visit. Once approved, each provider’s status is reviewed three times per year with one announced visit and two unannounced visits to ensure compliance with USDA meal guidelines. Compliance issues are resolved through education and viewed as an opportunity to offer more wholesome selections.
Currently, more than 150 providers work through Rainbow Fleet to receive a reimbursement check, which is issued on the third Friday of the month.
“We are proud of the consistency providers can count on when they work with us, as funding can be critical to business operations,” said Ivison.
Call (405) 521-1426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to start the application process.
Commitment to nutrition in early childhood: RFEEC family food pantry
Rainbow Fleet is also making an impact with its own early childhood program participants at Rainbow Fleet Early Education Center (RFEEC) with a new community pantry for families of enrolled children. In partnership with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, shelf stable and refrigerated food is available to RFEEC families, including bread, milk, whole grains, eggs, quality meats and other staples.
“We are proud to help families select healthy foods, especially in light of the current cost of groceries,” said Rainbow Fleet CEO Carri Hicks. “The food pantry is open to the family of any child currently enrolled in the RFEEC. Call (405) 521-1826 for more information, or inquire directly with your child’s classroom teacher.”
Rainbow Fleet is an equal opportunity provider and employer.