Be Child Care Aware: Federal Programs Help Make Child Care Affordable

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  4/19/2005 10:28:32 PM

News You Can Use For April 2004

Many families are paying anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent of their total family income on child-care costs, but, believe it or not, federal programs help to cut some of the costs of child-care facilities.

"One of the ways child-care programs offset some of the expenses they must pass on to families in the form of tuition is to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program," explains LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe. "This program provides funding to help with food expenses."

The sole purpose of this funding is to purchase food, snacks and other food-related items and to cover other food-related expenses, according to Gioe, who says each day more than 2.6 million children under the age of 12 receive nutritious meals and snacks through the program.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers the Child and Adult Care Food Program through grants to individual states. In Louisiana, the program is regulated by the state Department of Health and Hospitals’ Nutrition Service.

Louisiana Class A child-care programs and licensed family child-care providers enter into agreements with state agencies to assume administrative and financial responsibility for Child and Adult Care Food Program operations.

"Generally, for-profit child-care programs having at least 25 percent of the children they serve eligible for free or reduced-price meals may participate in the CACFP program," Gioe explains.

In child-care centers, children from households with incomes below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children from households with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent are eligible for reduced price meals.

"Families must fill out paperwork and provide an income eligibility statement to determine eligibility for the program," Gioe stresses, adding, "Children from families who receive benefits from the Food Stamp Program, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or state programs funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Head Start or Even Start are eligible for free meals."

Another program administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. WIC is funded by a federal grant with a specific amount of funding each year for program operations.

In 2002, Congress appropriated $4.462 billion nationally for WIC.

The Department of Health and Hospitals also oversees the WIC program in Louisiana.

"In the United States, more than 2,200 local agencies and 9,000 clinics offer WIC services," Gioe says, explaining, "WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition counseling and referrals to health and other social services at no charge to the participants."

WIC serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk. To be eligible on the basis of income, an applicant’s income must fall below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines (currently $33,485.00 for a family of four.)

A person who participates or has a family member participating in the Food Stamp Program, Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families automatically meets the income eligibility requirement for WIC.

"In most WIC agencies, participants receive checks or vouchers to purchase specific foods each month that are designed to supplement their diets," Gioe explains. "Foods provided are high in one or more of the following nutrients – protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

"These are nutrients frequently lacking in the diets of the program’s target population."

Examples of some of the foods provided are iron-fortified formula and infant cereal, adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juices, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried beans/peas, tuna fish and carrots.

For more information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program or WIC, visit or For details on the programs in Louisiana, you may also call the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals at (504) 568-5065.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.


Contacts: Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or
Editor:      Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or

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