Associated Students’ Early Childhood Education Center was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive federal funding that will reimburse them for the lunch and snacks they provide to children at the center.
The funding comes from the Child and Adult Care Food Program, a state and federal initiative that reimburses institutions for the money they spend providing meals to their patrons. Daycare centers, assisted living facilities for seniors over 60, and after-school and emergency children programs qualify for the funding.
“It’s the first time we get this funding,” said Director of the Early Childhood Education Center Erica Almaguer. “It took me over a year to fill out the application.”
In 2021, the ECEC had a budget of just under $58,800 for food. Still, it is not a guarantee that it will get reimbursed for all the meals they provide.
Almaguer said they could get reimbursed around $10,000, which can help the center reduce its dependency on AS.
The California Department of Social Services through the USDA established an income bracket that decides how much an institution can get reimbursed for a child, depending on where the parents fall on the scale.
“The reimbursements depend on the income of the individuals,” Almaguer said. “For the people in the lowest bracket, we get almost everything, for families I will get a smaller reimbursement.”
A household of one can make a maximum of $16,744, and a household of two a maximum of $22,646 in order to fall into the center’s free scale. The center will receive the highest reimbursement for these families’ meals, which is $4.33.
The center’s reduced scale includes households of one that makes a maximum of $23,828 and two that make a maximum of $32,227. The center will receive a meal reimbursement of $3.93 for these families.
Currently, there are 62 families—65 kids—enrolled at the ECEC. However, only 30% of those parents are students at SF State.
“I’m not thrilled with those numbers,” Almaguer said.
Almaguer said that the center limits the number of non-student families to 25% but in the last decade, the number of students enrolling their kids in the center has decreased. She is unsure why this is happening, but thinks that fewer students on campus may have children, or that some students may not know this program exists.
She asked the university for data on students enrolled at SF State who have children under five, but the university said they do not have such data.
According to the CACFP website, more than 4.2 million children and 138,000 adults have access to nutritious meals and snacks every day through this program. The federal government, through its Child Nutrition Program bill of 1968, created the program in order to improve children’s nutrition.
ECEC’s mission is to provide high-quality education and childcare services to students who attend the university.
Quotas and fees do vary depending on the income scale of those who apply. There are even options for low-income parents to qualify for part-time subsidized child care through the two grants available at ECEC.
“Oh my god, this helped me so much, 1000%,” said SF State graduate, Gladys Lewis.
Institutions and programs that receive money from the CACFP, must meet the nutritional requirements demanded by the government, which bases its demands on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans created by the National Academy of Medicine.
This diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, low sugar and saturated fat.
“This [center] is very important, it helps a lot,” said SF State Social Work major Victoria Ortiz. “On days I have class, I don’t have the time to prepare anything, everything’s nutritious, kids love it.”
Even though they do not have a kitchen, ECEC provides meals from Revolution Foods—an Oakland-based company that sells prepared meals—and some snacks from Safeway.
“We give families a menu for the whole month,” Almaguer said. “It is not required for them to eat our food. At the moment, we’re not able to accommodate gluten-free or vegan options.”
Almaguer said that parents will not see any difference now that the center has received its CACFP approval because they are already providing free meals to children, which began during the pandemic.
The Early Childhood Educational Center is located at 1 State Drive, across from the Seven Hills Conference Center.