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Healthy Tots Helps Address Food Insecurity in D.C.

April 18, 2024

D.C. Hunger Solutions Report_4x3

Across the nation, racial inequities have impacted access to federal nutrition programs for people of color. The report by D.C. Hunger Solutions aims to address how racial inequities contribute to hunger and poverty among residents of color in the District of Columbia and to lack of access to federal nutrition programs.


Why It Matters

Access to federal nutrition programs is crucial in the fight to end hunger. Millions of households across the U.S. experience food insecurity – disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic household and those with children. An innovative programs D.C. has implemented to help address food insecurity among children, is Healthy Tots which supplements reimbursement received by child care providers through the CACFP.

Nationwide Food Insecurity 2020-2022

  • 11.2% was the average rate of food insecurity among U.S. States
    • 10% food insecurity in D.C.
  • 12.8% of households were food insecure – 17 million households
    • 22.4% of Black households
    • 20.8% of Hispanic households
  • 17.3% of households with children were food insecure.


D.C. Healthy Tots Act

In 2022 the District of Columbia reported that of the 488 child care programs in D.C. only 33% participated in the CACFP.

Since 2014, D.C. has provided supplemental reimbursements for child care centers and family child care homes that participate in the CACFP through the Healthy Tots Act. This pivotal legislation improves the quality of child care and ensures that children receive nutritious meals. The Act:

  • Provides an additional 10 cent reimbursement for all meals that meet CACFP meal requirements.
  • Provides an additional 5 cent reimbursement for lunches and dinners that includes a component that is locally grown, unprocessed food.
  • Provides reimbursement for an additional snack or meal than what is reimbursable at the federal level. If the meal or snack meets CACFP requirements, it is reimbursed through local funds.


D.C. Root Causes of Hunger

  • Lack of Transportation: over one third of residents in D.C. rely on public transportation. Lack of access to public transportation limits residents’ ability to access grocery stores and meal locations.
  • Affordable, Safe Housing Availability: 58% of D.C. residents rent their home. With the minimum wage in D.C. at $17/hour, a resident seeking a one-bedroom rental at fair market rent would need to work 73 hours a week to afford to live there. Residents may have to prioritize paying rent over other necessities like food.
  • Child Care Costs and Shortages: On average D.C. families pay $417/week for child care, 85% higher than the national average. With child care costs accounting for a large portion of household income, it may impact their decision to pay for child care at all.
  • Community Disinvestment, High Cost of Living: D.C. cost of living is much higher than other cities and States. In addition, many high-paying jobs in D.C. require college degrees although many residents struggle to get quality education. A persons ability to maintain employment and afford the cost of living can have multiple implications on their access to food.
  • Education: Dealing with food insecurity and living in poverty are significant barriers to academic success. Homeless, economically disadvantaged, and foster care students had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism in D.C.
  • Language Access: Over 15% of D.C. residents speak a language other than English. Language access is a barrier in grocery stores.



For more information, read the 2024 Racial Equity Report: How Racial Inequities Impact Food Security in the District of Columbia. The study was published by D.C. Hunger Solutions.