Head Start and Early Head Start programs may provide meals, snacks, and diapers to enrolled children and families. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) covers most of the cost of meals and snacks for enrolled Head Start and Early Head Start children. Programs must use funds from the USDA child nutrition programs as the primary payment source for meal services. Program funds may be used only for specific allowable meal and snack costs that are not covered by USDA. To the extent programs' current budgets are insufficient to cover these costs, programs will be able to request supplemental Head Start funds.
Grantees should work with their state CACFP agency to determine which flexibilities are available during program closures. As a reminder, families may also be eligible for USDA WIC or SNAP benefits. These programs have also been granted administrative flexibilities.
Programs that provide food should follow guidance from local health departments and other authorities on science-based safety practices, such as frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and group size limitations. People who are sick should not prepare or pick up meals. Possible strategies for providing food to children include the following:
- Assemble bags of food, including formula for enrolled infants, and deliver to families using agency school buses or other agency vehicles. Bags could be delivered to the family's door.
- Families could pick up food at the center or other location. "Drive-through" pickups may be possible in areas where families have cars.
Some programs have partnered with food pantries to distribute food to adults as well as children. Head Start programs can partner with local diaper banks to distribute diapers for siblings of enrolled children. Programs can check with local schools, churches, or other community organizations to see if there are partnership opportunities to increase the efficiency of food distribution.
Food Security for Families
To meet the needs of school-aged children, the USDA is coordinating several efforts which may apply to siblings of Head Start children. Explore these resources to help children and families struggling with food insecurity during the COVID-19 emergency.
Providing Meal and Nutrition Services During COVID-19
The number of children in households struggling with food insecurity has more than tripled. As the pandemic continues, we encourage programs to take advantage of available flexibilities to ensure children’s nutritional needs are being met. Watch this on-demand webinar for best practices to combat food insecurity during COVID-19. It features experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety.
National Centers:Office of Head Start
Last Updated: July 6, 2021