CACFP Policy Memo Number 98

DOH-CACFP: Number 98 (07/04);Supersedes Number 51 (6/00)

TO: CACFP Sponsoring Organizations of Emergency Shelters

FROM: Jeanne Culver, State Director - Child and Adult Care Food Program

SUBJECT: Participation of Emergency Shelters in CACFP

I. Purpose and Scope

The purpose of the policy memorandum is to inform CACFP sponsoring organizations of emergency shelters about an extension of benefit eligibility. This component, which was added to CACFP through the Child Nutrition Authorization Act of 1998, provides reimbursement for meals and snacks served to children residing in emergency shelters. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) extends eligibility to children up to 19 years of age.

II. Background Information

  1. The intent of this legislation is to improve the access homeless people have to mainstream programs, rather than create a separate support system of programs and services. This legislation works toward that goal by providing homeless children residing in emergency shelters with year-round access to nutritious meals and snacks under CACFP.
  2. Public and private nonprofit emergency homeless shelters meeting state or local health and safety standards can participate in CACFP on a year-round basis.
  3. The emergency shelter component of CACFP allows reimbursement for three meals, or two meals and one snack, per day to residents through age eighteen.
  4. Reimbursement for meals served in emergency shelters is provided at the free rate, the highest rate of reimbursement currently in effect for CACFP centers. It is not necessary for the program to make eligibility determinations for individual children to receive reimbursement at the free rate.

III. Program Eligibility

  1. An emergency shelter is defined as "a facility all or a part of which is used or designed to be used to provide temporary housing." [Section 321 of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 112351)].
  2. Public or private nonprofit emergency shelters may participate in CACFP if they provide temporary housing to children and their families.
  3. CACFP reimbursement is available only to children who reside in an emergency shelter. Reimbursement is not available to visiting children who do not reside in the shelter. Meals served to adults and children nineteen years of age or older are not reimbursable under CACFP.
  4. Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCIs) are eligible to participate in CACFP only if the program provides services to families. RCCIs serving children under court or state custody are not eligible to participate in CACFP. These programs are eligible for benefits under the National School Lunch Program.
  5. Day shelters are eligible to participate in CACFP if they can document that the eligible children they serve reside in an emergency shelter.

IV. Program Requirements

  1. Meal Reimbursement -
    1. Emergency shelters may be reimbursed for serving up to three reimbursable meals, or two meals and one snack, per age-eligible resident child per day, including weekends and weekdays. This reimbursement is available year round.
    2. Age-eligible resident children who receive meals and snacks served in the shelter's food service will be automatically eligible for free meals and snacks, without the need for the families to complete an income eligibility application.
    3. Generally, only meals served in congregate meal settings are eligible for reimbursement. Meals consumed in private family quarters are not reimbursable by CACFP. An exception will be made for infants from birth through 12 months of age who may be served in private family quarters. Those meals may be claimed for reimbursement if the emergency shelter provides all of the required components to the infant's parent or guardian, and maintains records documenting that sufficient food has been served to meet the meal pattern requirement.
    4. If a shelter's food service is not conducted exclusively for the benefit of children, the shelter must maintain separate records of the meals it serves to eligible and non-eligible residents.
    5. Participating emergency shelters may not claim a program meal under more than one Federal child nutrition program. However, an institution may use funds from other Federal sources to support their food service operations. These funds can be used to enhance the meal service or to cover the costs of feeding those not eligible for CACFP reimbursement.
    6. The shelter cannot charge or collect payments for CACFP meals and snacks served to children, although they can assess a fee for a portion of the family's food stamp allotment if the charge is not a per-meal charge.
  2. Licensing/Approval Requirements -
    Emergency shelters are not requirement to have a Federal, State or local license in order to participate in CACFP. In the absence of a license, they must comply with all applicable State and local health and safety standards.
  3. Recordkeeping Requirements -
    To request reimbursement for meals and snacks served to children residing in emergency shelters, shelters must keep records that are adequate to determine the proper utilization of CACFP funds. At a minimum, the shelter must maintain:
    • A daily roster of children receiving meals and snacks
    • Total meal counts by type of meal
    • Menus for infant meals and meals served to children
    • Food production records
    • Receipts for food and food service related expenses
  4. Commodities -
    An approved shelter may receive CACFP reimbursement and commodities or cash-in-lieu of commodities for meals served to children. A shelter may continue to receive and use any or all commodity foods from the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to prepare meals and snacks served to children in CACFP and other clients. The shelter must be able to accurately document the number of meals served to children in CACFP and maintain adequate records of these meals.

Application and Approval

  1. Current CACFP Sponsoring Organizations: An emergency shelter may participate in CACFP as a center under an existing CACFP sponsoring organization, so long as an administrative relationship exists between the emergency shelter and the sponsoring organization. In this case, the sponsoring organization must follow standard CACFP procedures for adding a new center to its agreement with CACFP (see DOH-CACFP 4: CACFP Participation for Additional Day Care Centers).
  2. Potential CACFP Sponsoring Organizations: In order to participate in CACFP, the nonprofit organization must apply to be a CACFP sponsoring organization. The shelter must document that its primary purpose is to temporarily house and provide meals to children and their parents or guardians. The application must also describe how the shelter will ensure that reimbursement is claimed only for meals and snacks served to eligible resident children.


The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998 extends CACFP benefits to emergency shelters serving children under 13 years of age and their families. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) extends program eligibility to residential children 18 years of age and younger. Additional assistance is available by contacting CACFP at 1-800-942-3858.