CACFP Rates Announced for 2017-2018

Each year USDA must adjust meal reimbursement rates and the administrative reimbursement rates for sponsors of homes according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) change during the prior 12 month period. Click here to view rates.

The CPI is broken down into many sub-categories, and Congress has determined in the law which parts are used to adjust rates in the CACFP.  Rates for Family Day Care Home meals are based on the “food at home” series of the CPI for All Urban Consumers.  Rates for centers are based on the “food away from home” series of the CPI for All Urban Consumers and the administrative reimbursement rates for sponsors of homes are based on all items of the CPI for All Urban Consumers added together.

This year, the CPI on all items increased 1.87%, which resulted in a $2 (rounded) increase to admin rates on the first 50 homes for sponsors of homes and a $1 increase for homes 51 and up.   The CPI for food away from home showed a 2.31% increase, which resulted in higher meal reimbursement rates for meals served by centers.  This increase is slightly lower than last year’s increases, which benefited from rounding up due to a few tenths of percentage higher increase in the CPI.

Unfortunately, the food at home series showed a drop of 0.16% over the same period.  This means that, by law, USDA had to adjust meal reimbursement rates downward for Family Day Care Homes.  Fortunately, the percentage decrease was quite small, so in most cases it was not enough to round down to a decreased reimbursement rate. However, any percentage-based decrease affects the higher reimbursement rates more than the lower rate, so some of the higher-reimbursed meals for Alaska and Hawaii did go down a small amount.  (We are asking for clarification now on why the rate for Tier 2 lunches and suppers specifically appears to be rounded down instead of up and will update this post when we hear back.)

There’s no easy way to break the news to providers that they will not receive an increase in money this year, particularly when most of us aren’t actually seeing that food prices have dropped at all in the last year.  The only way to keep this from happening again is to urge Congress to change the law, prohibiting any future downward adjustment in reimbursement rates and admin rates and asking for a more realistic measure of the costs of serving food in family childcare.  This is not something that a sponsor, a state agency, or even USDA can change.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization hasn’t moved forward yet, so there may still be opportunity to urge your Congressperson to ensure that the good nutrition that CACFP provides stays accessible to the neediest children.  It certainly can’t hurt to let them know how much more difficult this makes getting healthy food to our most underserved kids.  Go here to find out how to contact your Senators and Representative.

Update Your Master Menus to Increase Vegetables and Whole Grains

Master Menus are a fantastic tool that sponsors can use with both homes and centers to give them easy-to-use meals that, when served in the right quantities, are always compliant and reimbursable.  With the new meal pattern changes coming, don’t forget to update your Master Menus to reflect the new requirement for at least 1 vegetable at lunch and dinner and 1 serving of whole grains per day.

Go ahead and update your lunch and dinner master menus now.  Make sure that each one has at least one vegetable planned.  And while you’re at it, consider making half or more of them contain a whole grain for the bread/bread alternate. You might even cut down on the number of Master Menus that contain juice, so that your sites are less likely to serve it more than once per day.  Updating and upgrading your Master Menus now means one less thing to worry about as the deadline approaches in 2017.

The same goes for Cycle Menus and EZ Menus.  Update them and have your sites serving compliant meals long before you have to worry about disallowing.

Why did reimbursement rates go down?

Each year USDA must adjust meal reimbursement rates and the administrative reimbursement rates for sponsors of homes according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) change during the prior 12 month period. Click here to view this year’s rates.

The CPI is broken down into many sub-categories, and Congress has determined in the law which parts are used to adjust rates in the CACFP.  Rates for Family Day Care Home meals are based on the “food at home” series of the CPI for All Urban Consumers.  Rates for centers are based on the “food away from home” series of the CPI for All Urban Consumers and the administrative reimbursement rates for sponsors of homes are based on all items of the CPI for All Urban Consumers added together.

This year, the CPI on all items increased 1%, which resulted in a $1 (rounded) increase to admin rates for sponsors of homes.   And the CPI for food away from home showed a 2.64% increase, which resulted in higher meal reimbursement rates for meals served by centers.

Unfortunately, the food at home series showed a drop of 0.69% over the same period.  This means that, by law, USDA had to adjust meal reimbursement rates downward for Family Day Care Homes.  Because any percentage-based decrease affects the higher reimbursement rates more than the lower rate, the Tier 1 rates serving the neediest children dropped more in real dollars than the smaller Tier 2 rates.  Some of the differences in the Tier 2 rates were entirely erased by rounding to the nearest cent, because they were already so small.

There’s no easy way to break the news to providers that they will receive less money for the same food, particularly when most of us aren’t actually seeing that food prices have dropped at all in the last year.  The only way to keep this from happening again is to urge Congress to change the law, prohibiting any future downward adjustment in reimbursement rates and admin rates.  This is not something that a sponsor, a state agency, or even USDA can change.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization hasn’t moved forward yet, so there may still be opportunity to urge your Congressperson to ensure that the good nutrition that CACFP provides stays accessible to the neediest children.  It certainly can’t hurt to let them know how much more difficult this makes getting healthy food to our most underserved kids.  Go here to find out how to contact your Senators and Representative.

New CACFP Meal Patterns and Minute Menu Systems

It’s an exciting time in the CACFP! The new meal pattern has finally been announced.  And the good news is that it’s pretty reasonable—both in the changes it makes for better child nutrition and in the implementation timeline.

Whether you use Minute Menu HX or Minute Menu CX, we know that you have questions about how and when our software will be able to accommodate the new meal pattern.  Some of those questions we can answer and even do now. Some of those questions are going to require research, planning, and software changes to implement.

In each and every case, the software that you, your providers, and your centers use will be fully compliant before the implementation date of October 1, 2017.

And as always, we’ll be providing training videos and other materials to help make this transition as smooth as possible for your internal team and for your providers and centers.

Early Implementation

USDA released a memo on early implementation of the new meal pattern, and we are in the process of discerning which portions of the meal pattern you’ll be able to switch to early and which portions will need to wait on new software development to comply.  In the meantime, it’s important to remember that early implementation is always voluntary and meals cannot be disallowed for following the current meal pattern prior to October 1, 2017.

If your state informs your office that it will choose to opt-in to some or all of the changes that are eligible for early implementation, please pass along that communication to us as soon as you receive it.  We will be able to use that information to determine the priority for making any necessary changes to our software.

Individual Allowances for Early Implementation

Fortunately, it looks like most of the individual allowances that can be implemented early will be simple additions to your food lists once your State Agency authorizes those changes.  This includes:

  • Reimbursing infant meals when the mother breastfeeds on-site (no change required)
  • Allowing yogurt, whole eggs, and ready-to-eat cereals under the infant meal pattern (simple additions and changes to your custom food list)
  • Counting tofu and soy yogurts as a meat alternate (simple additions to your custom food list)

We are working on a plan for early implementation of the meat and meat alternate at breakfast allowance and whether that item can be made available prior to completing all of the other changes needed for the full meal pattern update.

Full Meal Pattern Update Early Implementation

We’ll be working on our plan for rolling out the full meal pattern changes, in which we hope to include some enhancements to the software that will make dealing with foods and nutrition analysis easier for you.  In the meantime, we are anticipating further guidance from USDA over the coming months on what they will be requiring from a record-keeping standpoint and a monitoring standpoint.  Until the full requirements and expectations for implementing the updated meal patterns are understood, we are in planning-only mode.  We have no doubt that USDA will supply CACFP operators and participants with detailed requirements and operational instructions in plenty of time to make these changes in the software for the effective date of October 1, 2017.  Until we see more information, however, we will not be able to announce when or if early implementation of the entire new meal pattern will be possible.

HX 2.21.1 Optional Release Notes

This release includes 2 bug fixes for bugs introduced with the 2.21.0 release.

  • Fixed a bug for users who history child data (Sponsor Preference U.001 set to “Y”). Changes made to a child’s data for months prior to the HX current claim month were not saving.
  • Fixed an issue with one customer’s custom check file.

Customers who use the Historic Data function should install this update immediately and have been notified via email of the release.

HX 2.21.0 Mandatory Release Notes

This release includes several bug fixes and a few changes to the software.  It also contains changes to the software to prepare for the launch of online re-enrollment for your providers & parents.  Read more of this post

Already Expensing Your Smartphone? Make It a Wifi Hotspot for a Better hx2go Experience

You’ve got a new-ish smartphone with a data plan, but you’re doing hx2go reviews in offline mode?  Why not use your smartphone’s hotspot feature to connect your tablet or laptop and get those reviews uploaded immediately?

Don’t get me wrong.  Hx2go was designed to allow you to use it without an Internet connection in the field, but if you can stay connected, there are benefits.

  • Upload the review on-site. The provider gets the emailed link to the review within minutes, sometimes before you leave.
  • The review is safe on our servers—no worrying about losing your device or technical problems later when you try to upload.
  • You can easily download backup providers if the provider you tried to visit is unexpectedly closed.
  • The typical hx2go review is about 35kb in size. That’s about 25 reviews per 1MB of data, or 2500 reviews to make up 1GB.  Chances are, you’ll hardly notice the change in data use.

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New 2012-2013 Income Eligibility Guidelines Now Available

FNS has published new income eligibility rates for July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013. You can find them in the federal register here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-23/pdf/2012-7036.pdf

Minute Menu CX will be updated to include these new rates soon.

Minute Menu Training Launches at training.minutemenu.com

Today we’re launching our new Minute Menu Training resource, training.minutemenu.com. This website provides self-paced e-Learning on all Minute Menu products directly to our customers anytime, anywhere. You’ll also be able to register for live webinars and, later this year, for face-to-face trainings at our office in Texas.
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