Health Policy

Serving Children Healthy Food During the COVID- 19 Pandemic: Qualitative Interviews with Child and Adult Care Food Program-Participating Child Care Providers

Thompson, H.; Askelson, N.M.; Evans, S.; Kersten, S.; Starin, K.; Brady, P.


The early child care system has endured unprecedented challenges and suffered devastating losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Closings, stay-at-home ordinances, capacity limitations, and increased unemployment over the course of the pandemic have all adversely affected child care providers in the state of Iowa and nationwide.
Meanwhile, food insecurity has increased in the state of Iowa, as the pandemic has severely impacted employment for many Iowans.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federally funded program that reimburses child care providers for nutritious meals and snacks served by child care centers and homes. CACFP is one way to ease the burden of household food insecurity in Iowa.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how the pandemic has impacted meal service for CACFP-participating child care providers. Our aim was to identify facilitators and challenges to following CACFP practices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We evaluated how providers purchased, prepared, and served food to their children, and we offer recommendations for how to best support these critical providers.