In June 2022, Congress took bold and quick action to pass the Keep Kids Fed Act. Congress passed this bipartisan legislation to respond to the ongoing fallout of the COVID -19 pandemic on child nutrition programs in schools and child care. These adversities have not been alleviated, but the essential provisions in the Keep Kids Fed Act are set to expire on June 30, 2023.
What’s at Risk with Keep Kids Fed Act Expiration
Home-based child care providers are working tirelessly to ensure children do not go hungry and continue to have opportunities to learn and grow, all while one out of three child care providers is food insecure. CACFP partial reimbursements help providers absorb some of the costs of providing a meal.
The Keep Kids Fed Act:
- Enabled child care centers, Head Start and family child care programs participating in CACFP to receive an additional 10 cents for every creditable CACFP meal or snack served (two meals and one snack or two snacks and one meal).
- Eliminated, for one more year, area eligibility for family child care providers. All family child care providers were paid tier 1 rates (the highest rate possible) regardless of where their homes were located or their own income or the income of the families for whom they care.
- Enabled USDA to extend no cost nationwide waivers throughout school year 2022-2023 as well as meal pattern waivers.
Inequitable Two-tier System
One of the essential provisions of the Keep Kids Fed Act has been paying all family child care providers at a Tier I rate. Tier II providers will resume receiving the lower rate on July 1, 2023. There has been a steep drop of family child care participation since tiering (i.e. a means test) was implemented in 1997. In the last 20 years, the number of centers has almost doubled, with an increase of 82 percent. However, the number of family child care homes has decreased by 46 percent.
We are deeply concerned about the return of the tiering policy. A family child care provider with 7 children enjoying 2 meals and 1 snack per day for a month, the Tier 1 provider will go from $873 in monthly reimbursement to $810; but if she is Tier 2, she will drop from $873 to $398 per month. It is simply not sufficient for nutritious meals and snacks, and she will continue to sacrifice to make it happen. Many of these families are food insecure and their children rely on the food provided in child care through the CACFP.
Combined Impact of Losses of Funding Streams
Three months after these CACFP resources end, child care funds through the American Rescue Plan Act will also end. Without these funds, approximately 3.2 million children could lose their child care spots and a projected 70,000 programs could lose nationwide. Congress is facing deep challenges to make needed increases in FY 24 for programs like the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start. The combined impact of all of these funding streams abruptly ending while family and early childhood workforce needs are acute will threaten access to child care for working parents.
Together with our partners, we urge Congress to extend these CACFP provisions for another year. Congress’ and USDA’s leadership in helping the community address these challenges has been critical to supporting child well-being. Without the extension of these provisions, we will undoubtedly see an increase in young children and even providers themselves going to bed hungry. We will also see more burdens placed on families and the closure of child care programs during a time when access to quality, affordable child care is already threatened. It has been a difficult few years for child care providers and their perseverance is remarkable. We are grateful for all that providers do for the children and families in their communities and will continue working tirelessly to ensure that their voices are included in policy making.