For millions of children in child care, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) acts as a key nutritional support by reimbursing child care providers for the cost of snacks and meals provided to the children in their care. But not all children in child care have access to this support, as many home-based child care (HBCC) providers face barriers to participating in the CACFP and other subsidy programs.

In 2012, almost 4 million HBCC providers (PDF), mostly women, cared for about 7 million children younger than 6—numbers that would be even higher if school-age children were included. These providers range from license-exempt relatives caring for one or two related children to licensed family child care homes with staff caring for 10 or more children, with licensing requirements varying from state to state (PDF). HBCC providers are particularly important for families with infants and toddlers, families working nontraditional schedules, families living in rural areas, families of children with special needs, and other families for whom child care centers are not available or not preferred.

Although HBCC providers have always been essential to the child care field, during the COVID-19 pandemic, families increasingly turned to these providers as child care centers closed or to limit contact with other children.

Read the full article about child care food subsidies by Gina Adams and Fernando Hernandez-Lepe at Urban Institute.