Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 54:10 (2022), pp. 925−938.



Copyright © 2022 Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Published by Elsevier Inc. Used by permission


Objective: To capture Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) state directors’ experiences implementing federal waivers for feeding children in early care and education (ECE) settings during coronavirus disease 2019.

Design: Qualitative semistructured interviews.

Setting: Virtual interviews with state CACFP directors.

Participants: Child and Adult Care Food Program directors from 21 states from December 2020 to May 2021.

Phenomenon of Interest: Implementation of state-level waivers.

Analysis: Qualitative thematic analysis.

Results: State directors reported that the coronavirus disease 2019 waivers allowed ECE programs to continue feeding children despite being closed or having limited enrollment. The meal pattern, noncongregate feeding, parent/guardian meal pick-up, and monitoring waivers were most frequently used by states. Challenges included maintaining integrity to CACFP meal pattern requirements, addressing the limited capacity of ECE to produce and distribute noncongregate meals, and adapting technology for virtual reviews. Suggested improvements included streamlined communication from the US Department of Agriculture, standing waivers for emergencies, ongoing flexibilities for feeding children, and strategies to increase CACFP enrollment and reduce financial viability requirements for ECE.

Conclusions and Implications: Results indicate the need for the US Department of Agriculture to consider issuing and extending waivers, increasing ECE participation in CACFP, and ensuring timely communication and guidance on waiver tracking