Springfield – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently announced funding is now available for the Child and Adult Care Food Program in fiscal year 2020. The program assists child care centers, Head Start programs, before-and after-school programs, emergency shelters, and day care home providers with funding to serve healthy meals to children.
All participating child care centers must provide meals to enrolled children at no additional cost. Funding for the CACFP comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “The Child and Adult Care Food Program supports the healthy development of our youngest learners,” said ISBE Director of Nutrition Mark Haller. “Inequities in access to healthy food can impact children’s learning at an early age. ISBE is committed to ensuring all children have the resources and supports they need to grow and be ready for school.”
CACFP participant Riverbend Head Start and Family Services in Alton understands that childhood hunger affects the learning process. The organization will offer classes to parents interested in improving their cooking skills and in learning about the benefits of using fresh ingredients, meal planning, and budgeting. Riverbend Head Starts Youtube channel gives parents access to easy recipes, cooking tips, and cooking strategies to make meal preparation easy and fun.
“Riverbend Head Start’s participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program continues our investment in healthy kids and healthy communities,” said Jon Kuanfung, a nutrition specialist at Riverbend Head Start and Family Services. “ISBE’s administration of the program helps us offer vital supports for families in need in and around the Metro-East area.”
Riverbend Head Start also incorporates gardening as a way to teach children classroom learning objectives outside. The garden helps to introduce children to fresh vegetables and make connections with where their food comes from. The gardening program continues to expand through the involvement of parents and community volunteers. Nearly 1.4 million people in Illinois experienced food insecurity in 2017, including more than 450,000 children, according to Feeding America.
Individuals in households who participate in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are automatically eligible to receive free meal benefits. The USDA Household Income Eligibility Guidelines determine eligibility to receive free meal benefits for families that do not receive TANF or SNAP benefits. If a household’s income falls within or below the listed guidelines, they should contact their child care center or day care home provider to learn about the benefits of the CACFP. They may be required to complete an application and provide income, TANF, or SNAP information.
Children enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start programs at approved Head Start facilities and foster care children who are legal responsibilities of the state or court also receive free meal benefits. Parents or guardians should contact their child care center or day care home provider to find out if they participate in the program.