What factors contribute to food program errors?

Estimating program error in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) through Erroneous Payments in Child Care Centers Study (EPICCS)


The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) serves 3.7 million+ children daily through about 20,000 sponsoring organizations enrolled at 66,000+ childcare centers. By subsidizing meals, the CACFP makes it more feasible for childcare providers to serve nutritious meals.

Inherent in the administration of a large national program is the potential for program and payment errors. In childcare programs, program errors include

  • Certification errors: meal eligibility categories
  • Aggregation errors: meal counts for claiming of meals
  • Meal claiming errors: met meal pattern requirements

Meal claiming error does not affect erroneous payments.


Building upon the Access, Participation, Eligibility, and Certification Study (APEC) methodology, Westat carried out the Erroneous Payments in Child Care Centers Study (EPICCS) to

  • Provide a dollar estimate of program error in the childcare center component of the CACFP
  • Develop estimation models to update the dollar estimates of program error annually
  • Prepare a white paper on methodologies to compute state-level estimates

In order to do this, the EPICCS study collected data from a nationally representative sample of sponsored, independent, and Head Start childcare centers and households between February 2017 and January 2018. Data collected included

  • Household income eligibility (in-person interviews)
  • Abstracted application and administrative meal claims data
  • Observations of meals served


The findings will be used to respond to federal mandates and facilitate process improvements to increase the program integrity of CACFP. Erroneous payment rates that exceed 10% require programmatic corrective action plans. These efforts improve both quality and access to the CACFP for children and childcare centers.


Deep Dive with Our Experts

view all insights
  • Expert Interview

    Leveraging WIC EBT Data for In-Depth Program Analysis

    April 2024

    Since its founding 50 years ago, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has been a critically needed source of food…

  • Perspective

    The Westat Team Behind VISION’s Success

    April 2024

    The VISION Vaccine Effectiveness Network, launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2020, spurred a monumental shift in vaccine assessment, guiding…

  • Perspective

    Diverse Journeys: Westat Women in Leadership

    March 2024

    In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the remarkable women leaders at Westat. Their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and insights have helped…


Keep Reading

view all projects

How can we help?

We welcome messages from job seekers, collaborators, and potential clients and partners.

Get in Contact

Want to work with us?

You’ll be in great company.

Explore Careers
Back to Top