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Washington, D.C. – As the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic increase hunger across the country, the meals provided through child care programs play a significant role in supporting children and families. U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is introducing the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act to make it easier for child care providers to provide nutritious, healthy meals for young children. The bill would improve the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which serves healthy meals to more than 4.2 million of the Nation’s youngest children in child care centers, day care homes and Head Start.

Currently, family child care homes only qualify for area eligibility in areas with 50 percent or more low-income children. The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act would reduce the area eligibility test from 50 percent to a 40 percent threshold and open the door for many more children to receive healthy CACFP meals and snacks. It would also allow child care centers and homes the option of serving a fourth meal for children who are in care settings for 8 or more hours.

“When children have a healthy start in life, they are better able to learn and grow,” said Senator Casey. “Investing in early childhood nutrition is one of the most important things we can do to invest in the future of our Nation’s leaders and workers, and that is what the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act does. This legislation would provide urgently needed nutrition assistance to the many families who are struggling due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increase CACFP’s effectiveness and ability to provide access to healthy meals and snacks for children in child care.”

“We applaud Senator Casey for his efforts to strengthen CACFP. Increasing CACFP participation and the availability of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products, and healthy beverages for young children in child care will support their growth and health. This bill would help millions of children in child care access nutritious food,” said Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center.

“We are enormously grateful to Senator Casey for his commitment to CACFP and for his introduction of this bill, which brings long overdue and needed attention to this often overlooked Child Nutrition Program. Through its emphasis on reducing administrative burden, improving access and enhancing nutrition, the bill will greatly impact the healthy development of our country’s youngest and most vulnerable children,” said Robert S. Jones, Director of Government Programs, Nutritional Development Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act would also:

  • Increase CACFP reimbursements by 10 cents per child per tier, leading to an anticipated direct increase in foods high in nutritional value
  • Provide $5 million per year to support nutrition training and technical assistance under CACFP

This bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Read the list of endorsing organizations here.

Read the one pager on the Access to Healthy Foods for Young Children Act here.

Read the bill text of the Access to Healthy Foods for Young Children Act here.