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Community Action Agency submits application to sponsor food program

The Frederick Community Action Agency has applied to be the local sponsor of the Child and Adult Care Food Program in Frederick County.

Nearly 200 local child care providers participate in the federally funded program that reimburses care providers for providing healthy meals to children. Mike Spurrier, FCAA director, said his organization submitted a preliminary application to run the program on Friday.

The program is a way to stop child hunger and poverty, while promoting nutritious eating, Spurrier said.

“Our interest is really in helping to make sure this resource remains in place and, perhaps, even expand to help the child care providers and, ultimately, the families that they’re helping,” he said.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program is a Maryland State Department of Education program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program reimburses child care centers, adult day care centers, family child care homes and after-school programs for providing nutritious food and teaching about healthful eating, according to the program’s website. Providers are required to complete training and submit meal plans with local sponsors to receive the funding.

The Frederick County Department of Social Services ended its sponsorship of the program in December after decades of involvement. The decision came as a shock to local providers that were left scrambling to make up the lost reimbursement income, which could be hundreds of dollars a month.

The 195 providers in the program received more than $800,000 in fiscal 2018, said Patty Morison, Child Care Choices director at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, in an email.

The providers said they felt Frederick County DSS broke a promise with the lack of notice on ending its participation in the program and the department not having a transition plan in place for another sponsor.

In a letter sent to The Frederick News-Post after the original Jan. 22 article was published, Frederick County DSS director Martha Sprow said the retirement of two of the three employees involved with CACFP and priority shifts with DSS’ mandated programs led to the department ending its participation. The decision was “implemented responsibly,” Sprow wrote.

In a follow-up interview, Sprow said that federal regulations require only two weeks’ notice to providers about ending the program.

Spurrier said he has been in touch with Sprow and MSDE officials about making sure FCAA will qualify to be the local sponsor, along with best practices. Sprow confirmed the conversation but declined to comment on any specific advice she had given Spurrier about her experience running the program.

If FCAA is selected to run the program, city employees with FCAA would approve the menus of child care providers and complete inspections. The CACFP is grant-funded, which would cover the administrative costs to the city, Spurrier said. Bill Reinhard, MSDE director of communications, declined to provide a list of other Frederick organizations interested in sponsoring the program.

In 1994, FCAA began working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also administers the CACFP, with the Summer Food Service Program. The program provides free lunches in the summer months to children 18 years old and younger.

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