An Analysis of the Child and Adult Care Food Program in Child Care Centers

by Kanika Kapur, M. Rebecca Kilburn, C. Christine Fair

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The Food and Nutrition Service administers the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that provides healthy meals and snacks in child and adult day care facilities. This report analyzes the characteristics of three types of child care centers -- (1) centers that choose to participate in CACFP; (2) centers that are eligible for CACFP but do not participate; and (3) centers that are not eligible for CACFP. Furthermore, this report analyzes centers' propensity to participate in CACFP conditional on being eligible. The analysis is conducted using the Cost, Quality and Child Outcomes study of 1993 -- a four state survey of child care centers. The results show that centers that incorporate programmatic features that benefit low-income children are more likely to be eligible for CACFP and to participate in CACFP. Non-participating centers tend to offer fewer services, and therefore, appear not to be designed to help needy children. Furthermore, the predicted probability of participation for ineligible centers, calculated using the multivariate model estimates, is only 27 percent. This suggests that even if ineligible centers were made eligible, their propensity to participate in CACFP may be low. The results show large state differences in CACFP eligibility. Conditional on CACFP eligibility, CACFP participation also varies dramatically by state. State regulations and variations in meal costs by state may contribute to this large differential. Therefore, any federal policy that seeks to expand participation among for-profit centers must take account of existing state policies.

This research was sponsored by RAND's Labor and Population Program.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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