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Study: Connecticut child care centers missing out on federal funds for food

Shawn Harrell of Hartford
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A new study has concluded that licensed child care centers in Connecticut have been missing out on millions of dollars in federal funds for food and nutrition.

UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health surveyed more than 230 centers in 2019 about a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that reimburses for food that meets specific nutritional standards. The program supplies qualifying child care programs with nutritious meals and snacks.

The researchers found a lack of awareness, lack of knowledge about eligibility and burdensome reporting requirements as factors that weighed against participation. The study estimated more than 20,000 children from low-income homes may have missed out on the program’s benefits and that families could have saved an average of $31 per week per child.

“We want more child care centers to be participating in the program,” Tatiana Andreyeva, the study’s lead author, told the Connecticut Post. “The numbers in our state were pretty low.”

More than a third of providers said they thought they weren’t eligible for the program because they didn’t have a sufficient number of low-income children, the study found. But the study also concluded many providers lacked a full understanding of the program and its requirements.

Some cited administrative difficulties that posed challenges. Those were likely exacerbated by the stresses brought on by what historically has been a low-paid profession and which have been heightened during the pandemic.

“A lot of these are small businesses,” Andreyeva told the Post. “They don’t have a manager, an administrator. They’re doing multiple jobs.”

Susan Johnson, the director at The Children’s Center of New Milford, which is enrolled in the federal program, said the reimbursements do not always track with the actual price of nutritious food.

“They’re unbelievably low,” she told the Post. “They’re totally unrealistic in terms of what the cost of food is. It’s been this way forever, and it’s just gotten worse.”

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