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Tribal Participation in the CACFP and the SFSP

FNS Document #
CACFP18 SFSP14-2012
Resource type
Policy Memos
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy Memo (103.14 KB)
DATE: July 24, 2012
MEMO CODE: CACFP 18-2012, SFSP 14-2012
SUBJECT: Tribal Participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program
TO: Regional Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All Regions

During recent consultation and collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, it has come to our attention that some Tribal child care facilities continue to face specific difficulties that may discourage participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

The purpose of this memorandum is to reissue previous guidance, CACFP 01-1999, Participation of Tribal Child Care Facilities in CACFP, Oct. 23, 1998, and provide Questions and Answers intended to clarify current program policies and how these policies may impact the operation of the CACFP, as well as the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), in Indian Country. We encourage state agencies to work with Tribes to ensure that any additional barriers to participation within the states also are addressed.

Recent research shows that American Indian and Alaska Native children have approximately twice the levels of food insecurity, obesity, and Type II diabetes, relative to the averages for all U.S. children of similar ages. Therefore, it is especially important that Tribal child care programs have access to the federal child nutrition programs.

CACFP Licensing or Approval

Consistent with Section 17(a)(1) of the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and 7 CFR §226.6(d) of CACFP regulations, there are a variety of ways for Tribal child care facilities to meet the licensing and approval requirements for participation in CACFP.

The NSLA requires that all facilities participating in CACFP have federal, state, or local licensing or approval. In the absence of such licensing or approval mechanisms, facilities must demonstrate compliance with any applicable state or local government standards or the CACFP standards set forth at 7 CFR §226.6(d)(3). Thus, if a Tribal facility is not licensed or approved by the state or another local authority, it may participate in CACFP if it:

  • Is licensed or approved by Tribal authorities. Tribal licensing is considered a form of “local licensing or approval” not “alternate approval.”
  • Receives “local alternate approval,” if the state licensing agency cannot or will not license/approve Tribal facilities and if no Tribal licensing/approval exists. In this case, such facilities may be approved under either:
    • the CACFP child care standards set forth in 7 CFR §226.6(d)(3);
    • a system of state alternate approval administered by the CACFP state agency; or
    • a system of local alternate approval administered by a local government entity, where such local standards have been identified and submitted to the state agency in accordance with 7 CFR §226.6(d)(4).

Under the local alternate approval process, the submission of the local government standards is solely intended to ensure that the state agency can meet its review responsibilities for compliance with alternate state or local standards under 7 CFR §226.6(o) of the regulations. Submission is not for the purpose of gaining state agency approval of the standards.

Tribal Eligibility under CACFP and SFSP

In determining whether an institution is eligible to participate in CACFP, the Tribal government is recognized as a “public entity” or “local government,” if this is not inconsistent with state law. Thus, a Tribal government may be a CACFP sponsor of day care homes or centers and may sponsor SFSP sites assuming other eligibility requirements are met. With regard to independent child care centers, for purposes of CACFP, an independent center that is directly administered by the Tribal government is also considered a “public entity” or “local government” if this is consistent with state law.

If a Tribal government is not a “public entity” under state law, but has been granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a child care center operated by the Tribal government would be considered a private nonprofit entity. A Tribal child care center would only be considered “for-profit” and subject to additional eligibility requirements described in 7 CFR §226.2 if the center is independent of the Tribal government and does not have non-profit status.

Additionally, a Tribal government granted non-profit status would be considered a private nonprofit entity for purposes of SFSP and, therefore, could act as a sponsor of SFSP sites assuming other eligibility requirements are met.

Program operators should direct any questions regarding this memorandum to the appropriate state agency. state agency contact information is available at State agencies should direct questions to the appropriate FNS regional office.

Cynthia Long
Child Nutrition Division


Page updated: March 01, 2023