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.


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