Government Programs

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

  • Provides meals and snacks to children at family day-care homes, child-care centers, homeless shelters and after-school programs, and to older or functionally impaired adults at adult day-care centers.
  • CACFP is allowed to provide suppers to children attending after-school programs in high-need areas, where at least 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

More information:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

  • Any student in a participating school can get an NSLP lunch regardless of the student’s household income.
  • Operated in more than 99,000 public and nonprofit private schools (grades K-12) and residential child care institutions in 2014 (most recent data).

More information:

School Breakfast Program (SBP)

  • Created in the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.
  • Provides nutritious meals to students at participating schools (and to children in residential child-care institutions). Eligible students receive free or reduced-price breakfasts.
  • 85,718 schools participated in the SBP in 2014.

More information:

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

  • Provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk.
  • Operates through 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites, 50 state health departments, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).
  • Two major types of nutritional risk are recognized for WIC eligibility: Medically-based risks (designated as “high priority”) such as anemia, underweight, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications, or poor pregnancy outcomes and diet-based risks such as inadequate dietary pattern.

More information:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
  • Offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.
  • Available in 43 states.
  • Applicants must contact their local office. (
  • Can use SNAP benefits to buy: breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables;  meats, fish and poultry; dairy products; seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat.
  • Cannot use SNAP benefits to buy:
    • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco.
    • Any nonfood items, such as: pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, vitamins and medicines, food that will be eaten in the store, hot foods.

More information:

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

  • Helps families become self-sufficient.
  • Purposes:
    • Make sure children are cared for in their own homes.
    • Promote job preparation, work and marriage to reduce the dependency of parents in need.
    • Prevent and reduce the frequency of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
    • Encourage two-parent families (as opposed to single-parent families).

More information:

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card

  • A card for receiving and using food stamp benefits, temporary assistance benefits and some transportation-related expenses.
  • Can be used by any member of a household.
  • Can be used in any store that displays the QUEST Mark ®, or ATM that displays the QUEST Mark ®, STAR ®, or SHAZAM ® logos.
  • Cannot be used in these locations:
    • Liquor stores.
    • Casinos, gambling casinos, gaming businesses (including bingo halls).
    • Adult-entertainment businesses where performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment (strip clubs, gentlemen’s clubs).
    • Any place mainly for or used by adults 18 or older and/or not in the best interest of the child or household.