State to help home care provide nutritious snacks

By Jessica Schuh

Thousands of children in license-exempt day care will have access to healthier meals thanks to a partnership between the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS).

Starting in December, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which already provides reimbursements to licensed-care facilities, will offer reimbursements to eligible license-exempt home care providers for healthy meals and snacks given to children, said Jill Belton-Hardwick, principle consulter for the Illinois State Board of Education. The Child and Adult Food Care Program began in the 1970s; this is a new extension of that program to meet the needs of more low-income families, she said.

In order to qualify for the reimbursements, providers must be registered with DHS, have a maximum of three outside children in their care and provide care for children enrolled in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The DHS oversees CCAP, which gives low-income families subsidies for childcare.

“(It will help) provide quality daycare and good nutrition,” Belton-Hardwick said.

The DHS will provide a database of qualified providers to the Illinois State Board of Education, which will administer the program, said Tom Green, spokesman for DHS. The reimbursements will be funded through federal funds, he said.

Belton-Hardwick, who will administer the home care program, said 16 non-profit sponsoring agencies throughout the state will start notifying eligible providers about the reimbursements beginning Dec. 1. Those sponsors will provide participating providers with nutritional information and will be required to meet nutritional requirements to receive the reimbursements.

“They’ll be educated on the types of foods and the nutritional needs of the children (in their care),” she said.

The program will help ensure that low-income children in home day care receive nutritious food to help meet their developmental needs.

“It will reach out to families that need assistance, and it will help them with their nutritional needs,” Belton-Hardwick said.

Sponsors will conduct both announced and unannounced inspections throughout the year to make sure providers are following nutritional guidelines, she said. Based on need, providers will receive reimbursements for a portion of the cost of up to two meals and one snack or two snacks and one meal per child per day, she said.

Other states, such as New York, California and Colorado, have instigated similar programs, she said.

“It was a push from the Food Research Action Council, an advocacy group in Washington,” she said.

Judy Hartley, director of Child Care Resource Service in Urbana, said providers in the area will benefit from the program.

“It will definitely affect people in Champaign-Urbana,” Hartley said.

Becoming licensed usually benefits all parties involved, she said. People who choose not to become licensed childcare providers miss out on many of the advantages for those who are licensed, she said.

“We’re always glad to learn that children are going to have access to advantages in their early years,” she said.

Hartley said the program will help “have children well-cared for and well-fed.”