Eating to Learn:

Increasing participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program


The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) reimburses early education and care programs for the meals and snacks they provide to young children. Many children receive the majority of their daily meals while in care, thus, these programs play an important role in ensuring that children are served healthy, nutritious food.

In 2012, BTWIC launched “Eating to Learn”, a research project to increase participation in CACFP while making the program easier for providers to access. Although 17%1 of the 220,0002 Massachusetts children in early education programs lack consistent access to nutritious food, only 24% of center-based programs were participating in CACFP at the outset of this initiative. Additionally, at least 242 programs in “Gateway Cities” were not participating in the program, representing as many as 5,000 likely eligible children.

Good nutrition in early childhood:

  • Develops the brain
  • Develops the body
  • Sets healthy eating patterns for lifelong health
  • Helps prevent obesity
  • Improves learning and school readiness

Over the course of three years, BTWIC engaged nearly 800 providers and stakeholders in grassroots research and collected over 25 recommendations on how to improve participation. After the 2015 release of our report on CACFP participation in Massachusetts, BTWIC completed a series of six briefings with key state agencies to share recommendations. BTWIC also worked closely with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in particular in order to drive participation rates by strengthening outreach to programs and identifying promising innovative practices to better support CACFP enrollment.

BTWIC Resources:


1 Feeding America. Map the Meal Gap. 2012 data for child food insecurity in Massachusetts.

2 Child Care Aware (formerly NACCRRA). 2014 Child Care in the State of Massachusetts.