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New Federal Legislation Proposed to Support Affordable Meals in ECE Settings

Dec 06, 2023    |   National ECE News Updates

During Congress’s recent fall session, important legislation was proposed that, if passed, will improve the benefits of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for millions of children in child care, including those in home-based child care settings.

The timing of these proposals makes them particularly significant.  Inflationary pressures on the cost of food (11% increases in 2022, followed by an additional 6% in 2023), coupled with the end of American Rescue Plan funding, have put many providers in a precarious financial situation. According to the RAPID EC Survey of families and providers that was initiated during the pandemic, 44% of providers continue to experience financial hardships post-pandemic, with more than 25% stating that access to affordable food is a significant source of stress. 

The Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Bonamici (D-Ore) and Congressman Landsman (D-Ohio) would add 10 cents to reimbursement for eligible meals and snacks in child care, Head Start, at-risk after school programs, and adult care. It would also eliminate the two-tier system for family child care, which requires providers to document the household income of families they serve, reimbursing those who serve middle-class and high-income families at a second, lower tier rate.

Members of both the House and the Senate have introduced additions that would strengthen the proposed Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act.

  • Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa) introduced the Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act in the Senate, adding a provision to make rate-setting more equitable by calculating family child care payments as  “food away from home”, consistent with the way child care center payments are calculated. 
  • In the House, Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore) and Representative Marc Molinaro (R-NY) introduced the Early Childhood Nutrition Improvement Act, which includes equitable rate-setting and adds an additional meal or snack for reimbursement by the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), when this meal takes place eight hours after the first meal of the program day.  It would also establish an advisory committee on CACFP paperwork.

Early childhood advocates are asking members of Congress from both parties to co-sponsor the Child Care Nutrition Enhancement Act and to make funding for early childhood care and learning a priority. 

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