|Abstract:||CHILD CARE FOOD SUBSIDIES.3.2012
ABNER, GORDON, KORENMAN, KAESTNER
In 2008, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households were food insecure, meaning the household members lacked consistent access to enough food for healthy lives. Half of low-income, female-headed households with children were food insecure in 2008. To address food insecurity and inadequate child nutrition, more than a dozen federal programs provide food and nutrition support to children and families.
Each of these programs has been widely studied, except for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP reimburses caregivers for meals and snacks provided to children in child-care centers, family day care homes, after-school programs, and homeless shelters, as well as to adults in adult day care centers—although children account for 96.3 percent of CACFP expenditures. Here, we summarize our recent research that highlights the effectiveness of CACFP in reaching needy children. Considering CACFP rules, and those of other child-care and food subsides, we use our results to offer suggestions to improve the targeting of nutritional assistance and child-care subsidies.
Policymakers or advocates who see CACFP primarily to support employment of low-income mothers by subsidizing their caregivers may not be concerned about the low rates of participation among low-income children, especially among those in exclusive parental care. However, because many poor women use unlicensed care and such care is eligible for general childcare subsidies, making unlicensed providers eligible for CACFP should also promote employment among low-income women. The exclusion of unlicensed providers is even more problematic for those who emphasize CACFP’s nutritional goals because children in unlicensed homes and exclusive parental care miss out on a nutritional benefit provided to equally needy children in licensed care. Finally, CACFP may be seen primarily to supplement other childcare subsidy programs or other food assistance programs. In this case, it might be more efficient to increase assistance in these other programs directly (if they are inadequate), rather than through the CACFP program that fails to reach many low-income children.