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Meals in Emergency Shelters

Emergency shelters receive the most meal benefits for children, at the highest rates of reimbursement, with the least amount of paperwork than any other type of facility in CACFP. CACFP helps enhance the meal services the shelter provides to children and youths who are residents. It gives the shelter a steady stream of Federal money for a nutritious meal service that complements the other services the shelter provides. The reimbursement allows the shelter to devote a smaller portion of resources to food-related expenses, freeing up resources that can be used for other activities.

Which emergency shelters can participate?

Emergency shelters that participate in CACFP provide residential and food services to children experiencing homelessness.

To be eligible, the shelter must be a public or private nonprofit institution or a temporary residential site Householded by a public or private nonprofit agency. The shelter may participate as a facility under an existing CACFP Household, or complete an application and sign an agreement directly with the CACFP state agency.

Unlike most other CACFP facilities, emergency shelters do not have to be licensed to provide day care. However, the shelter must meet any health and safety codes that are required by state or local law.

Who is eligible for CACFP meals?

CACFP serves children, including teenagers 18 and younger, who are emergency shelter residents. Persons with disabilities, regardless of their age, may also receive CACFP meals at the shelters where they reside.

Residents who receive their meals at the shelter are automatically eligible for free meals. There are no application forms for parents or guardians to fill out.

All reimbursable meals are served in group settings, at no cost to the child or to the child’s parents or guardians.

How are emergency shelters reimbursed?

Emergency shelters receive payments for serving up to three meals each day to each eligible resident, on weekdays and week-ends. Reimbursable meals must meet USDA’s nutrition standards, with foods like milk, meat, vegetables, fruit, and bread.

Payments are based on the number of meals and snacks served at the free rate.

Shelters also receive 24.75 cents in USDA foods or cash-in-lieu of commodity foods for each CACFP lunch or supper served. As of July 1, 2016, the rates paid (in U.S. dollars) to shelters in most states (payments are higher in Alaska and Hawaii) are:

  • Breakfast - 1.66
  • Lunch or Supper - 3.07
  • Snack - 0.84
Where can you get more information?

To learn more about CACFP and how you can participate, contact the child nutrition staff at your CACFP state agency.

Page updated: November 15, 2023