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Eligible public or private nonprofit child care centers, outside-school-hours care centers, Head Start programs, and other institutions which are licensed or approved to provide day care services may participate in CACFP, independently or as sponsored centers. For profit centers must receive title XX funds for at least 25 percent of enrolled children or licensed capacity (whichever is less) or at least 25 percent of the children in care must be eligible for free and reduced price meals. Meals served to children are reimbursed at rates based upon a child's eligibility for free, reduced price, or paid meals. Karamu will help you in determining if your center meets the 25% threshold each month.

What Is The CACFP For Centers?

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded program. As a participant in the CACFP, childcare centers receive monthly cash payments for serving nutritious USDA approved meals and snacks to the children they serve. The goal of the CACFP is to make good nutrition available to children from birth through 12 years of age.

Who Benefits From The CACFP?

Naturally, the children you care for benefit through the nutritious meals that they receive. The childcare parents benefit because their children receive free and well-balanced meals while they are in your care.  You, the childcare provider, benefits by receiving monthly reimbursement payments to help cover the cost of the foods use purchase and serve. Also, being able to offer free food to the children in your care is a valuable business asset for childcare centers that can help attract customers.

What Are The Requirements To Participate?

To participate on the program you must operate a licensed childcare center.  You must serve meals and snacks that meet the nutritional guidelines established by the USDA and you must agree not to charge your childcare parents for the food you serve. As your sponsor, Karamu will assume full responsibility for the administrative & financial liabilities of your food program operations. Furthermore, we personally assure the government that your program will be operated in accordance with all federal & state guidelines. 

How Much Money Will I Receive?

Once a month, you will submit your food program records to Karamu.  In turn we will compile a record of the meals and children that you served and issue you a payment accordingly. Centers are reimbursed based on meal rates set by the USDA. There are three different sets of rates a center can receive.  These rates are categorized as “free”, “reduced”, and “paid” and are determined for each child based on guidelines set by the federal government. 

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The exact amount of reimbursement you receive each month will depend on the number of children you serve; the number of days you are open; the types of meals you serve; and the rate classification for each child. As an example, let’s say you’re licensed for 60 children and you have 60 children under the age of 12 enrolled.  Assume 20 of the children are in the “free” category, 20 are in the “reduced” category and 20 are in the “paid” category.  If you served breakfast, lunch, and a snack to each of them daily for four weeks (20 days) you would receive a payment of about $4,068 after deducting the administrative fee for Karamu. (This assumes no one was absent,all the meals served met the USDA guidelines, and the fee for the month was 15%.)

How Are Karamu's Fees Calculated?

Sponsoring organizations of child care centers do not receive administrative payments from the USDA to cover the cost of their expenses to administer the program. The USDA allows sponsoring agencies to cover their expenses by withholding a portion of the meal reimbursement money received for the sponsored centers. The amount withheld annually should be the lessor of the sponsor's actual expenses or 15% of the total meal reimbursement - whichever is less. At Karamu, we strive to keep our expenses as low as possible each month so we can keep your fees as low as possible. What this means is our fees fluctuate regularly as our expenses fluctuate. For example, if our expenses are only 10% of the total meal reimbursements in a given month, then your fees will only be 10%. Unlike some other sponsors, Karamu will never withhold a flat 15% fee each month.  In fact, in 2016, Karamu's fees averaged 11%.


Our fees cover the cost of administering the CACFP. This includes expenses like payroll, office lease, office supplies, telephone, Internet, auto fuel and mileage to conduct site inspections, postage, CACFP management software, center training, and many other common expenses.   

Benefits of Sponsorship

As your sponsor, Karamu assumes full administrative and financial responsibility for your child care food program operations.  The state of Tennessee requires participating centers to be bonded, submit to background checks, provide proof of financial viability (which includes up to three months of bank records), and create detailed management plans and budgets - and this is just the beginning! As a Karamu sponsored facility, you fall under the auspices of our financial viability and years of management experience so you don't have  to deal with all of these administrative burden. 

As your sponsor we stand between you and the state of Tennessee. As a Karamu sponsored center your chances of ever being inspected by the State are significantly reduced.  However, if you ever are visited by the State, our goal is to assure that you are ready.  Our routine site inspections, training, and other technical assistance you receive on a regular basis are intended to keep your center’s child care food program audit ready. In fact, over the last 5 years, our sponsored centers that have been subjected to a State inspection averaged only $14.00 in over payments!

Karamu also provides a number of benefits such as long term records storage, secure shredding of archived documents, interpretation of complex USDA policies and regulations, free CACFP forms, convenient annual training, child care referral service, detailed monthly reimbursement statements, and professional service designed to give child care professionals the service and respect they deserve. 

Rights And Responsibilities

The Child Care Centers is required to keep daily records of: menus which show the food items served to the participants under care for each meal served each day: the total number of meals/supplements served to each participant each day; and the number of enrolled participants who are present each day.


The Child Care Center may claim only one meal per participant for each meal service.


The Child Care Center must attend training sessions required by the Sponsoring Agency.

The Child Care Center must allow authorized representatives of the Sponsoring· Agency, the TDHS and the Federal Government to come into the center's facility for the purpose of reviewing the operations. This will be done several times a year and at times visits may be unannounced.


The Child Care Center must inform the Sponsoring Agency, without delay, the names of any participants added to or dropped from the enrollment for child care, or if there are any changes in the center's child care license or approved status including, but not limited to, type and schedule of meals served.


The Child Care Center must submit the meal count and menu records to the Sponsoring Agency by the   3rd day of each month for the preceding month of operation. Failure to do so may result in loss of payment for the month.


The Child Care Center must serve meals that meet the CACFP requirements for participants. The Child Care Center may not claim more than three meals per child per day. One of the meals claimed must be a snack or supplement meal.


The Child Care Center agrees to not receive reimbursement for meals served to participants who are ineligible to participate in the CACFP.


The Child Care Center has the right to immediately terminate their Agreement with Karamu for cause. The grounds for termination for cause are exclusively limited to the following deficiencies of the Sponsoring Agency:


  • Noncompliance with the requirement to disburse meal program payments to the Child Care Center within five (5) working days of the notified receipt of the payments from the TDHS.


  • Noncompliance with the requirement to submit initial monthly claims to the TDHS within 30 days of the close of each reporting month, which results in the untimely disbursement of program payments to the Child Care Center; and


  • Violation of any other responsibilities as defined in the Agreement.


The Child Care Center agrees to not participate in the CACFP under another Sponsoring Agency, if it is terminated for cause and has not corrected the deficiency(ies) for which termination occurred.

Join Karamu

To join Karamu, simply give us a call at 901.327.8401 or go to the Contact page of this website and send us a message. We're waiting to hear from you!

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