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Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a food program that helps emergency shelters serve healthy meals to children and young people experiencing homelessness. CACFP meals help ensure equitable access to nutritious food for better health.

CACFP provides important resources to emergency shelters, including cash payments, free USDA foods, training, and program assistance. Emergency shelters receive cash payment for serving breakfast, lunch, and supper. The meals must meet federal nutrition standards. Emergency shelters must serve the meals for free to eligible children and young people. There are no application forms for families to fill out.

Use this flyer to spread the word! To participate in CACFP, emergency shelters should contact the CACFP agency in their state.

Program History


The American Rescue Plan Act (PL 117-2) temporarily raised the age limit from 18 to 24, to serve young adults during the COVID-19 public health emergency.


The CACFP Sponsor and Provider Characteristics Study finds that nearly 2 percent of facilities participating in CACFP in July 2017 were emergency shelters.


The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (PL 111-296) requires USDA to align the CACFP meal pattern with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (PL 108-265) extends the age limit from 12 to 18 years old.


The Child Nutrition Reauthorization of 1998 (PL 105-336) allows emergency shelters to serve CACFP meals to children age 12 or under, children of migrants age 15 and under, and children with disabilities of any age.

CACFP Guidance Impacting Emergency Shelters

Program Resources

image of emergency shelter beds and cots set up
Page updated: December 18, 2023