Program Description

Emergency and homeless shelters became eligible to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with congressional passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-336). The goal of this law, which became effective July 1, 1999, is to provide homeless children living in emergency shelters year-round access to nutritious meals and snacks.

Eligible facilities must serve meals and snacks meeting program requirements; maintain accurate and complete records; and train center personnel in program requirements and operations.

MDHSS provides reimbursement for allowable meals served; provides technical assistance on nutrition, food service operations, program management, and recordkeeping; and reviews and monitors program services to ensure good nutrition for all enrolled participants. For assistance, contact us.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible facilities include family shelters, shelters for battered women, homeless shelters, and other facilities whose primary purpose is to provide temporary residential shelter to homeless families with children. The shelter may be a public or private non-profit institution.

Licensing is not required. Each shelter must, however, have records of inspections or permits that verify that the shelter meets state and local health and safety standards. A formal child care program is not required.

Resident children 18 years of age and younger as well as residents of any age with disabilities are eligible to participate in the CACFP. Only meals served to children and disabled persons who reside at the shelter may be claimed for reimbursement. Although shelters may serve meals to individuals who do not reside there, these meals are not reimbursable. Shelters must maintain records that differentiate between residents at the shelter and children or disabled persons who are served meals as "walk-ins."

Meal Requirements

Only meals served in congregate settings are eligible for reimbursement. Families may prepare their own meals from a central kitchen, as long as the shelter provides the food. Meals and snacks must meet the nutritional standards established by CACFP. Even when prepared individually by each family, meals must still be eaten in group dining areas. Meals that are consumed in private family quarters are not reimbursable. Exception is made for the feeding of infants 0 to 11 months of age. Specific guidelines and record keeping requirements are required for shelters requesting reimbursement for infant meals.

The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs is designed by the USDA to help you buy the right amount of food and help you determine the specific contribution each food makes toward the meal pattern requirements. It also has yield data for more than 1,200 food items.

Reporting and Recordkeeping

Shelters must keep records that are adequate to support the number of meals claimed, the residential status of the children being claimed, and the proper utilization of CACFP funds. Records required include a daily roster of children receiving meals, specific meal counts by date, meal type (breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack), and the menu served to eligible children. If meal services also include adults and non-eligible children, the shelter must record these meals separately.

Commodities and Donations

Shelters may continue to receive commodity foods and food donations to supplement CACFP reimbursement for meals. Each shelter is responsible to make sure meals that include commodities or donated foods meet CACFP nutritional guidelines and that CACFP funds are used primarily to support the food service for eligible children.