The Emergency Food Assistance Program – TEFAP 101


It has been a while since I brought you a 101 post about an American or international hunger relief program. But we’re not out of programs to explore. That’s one of the things I’ve learned as I researched for these 101 posts – there are A LOT of different programs and participating distribution organizations out there! Here are the agencies and organizations we have looked at so far…

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps) – Longer-term (time in the program varies widely) assistance by way of money for food (in the form of a prepaid card that works only for qualifying food purchases) given to individuals who make their own choices within the program guidelines.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) – Food handouts for women and their children from pregnancy through kindergarten in exchange for the mothers taking nutrition training courses.

NSLP (National School Lunch Program) – Targeted provision given to schools so they can provide free and reduced price lunches to school-age children in low-income families.

UN World Food Programme – (International) Food relief arm of the United Nations

Meals on Wheels – A non-profit organization that receives money from these government funding sources to provide meals and a check in for seniors who are trying to remain independent. Meals on Wheels is not a government program, but is one of the partner non-profits that administers some of the government spending.

Head Start – A preschool version of the NSLP designed to meet the vital nutritional requirements of a growing preschool age child.

TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) – a food distribution program that buys agricultural products and distributes them to emergency feeding organizations like food banks and soup kitchens.


And still to come…

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) –

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) – Program specific to provisions for Native Americans living on reservations.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) – Senior specific food aid program.

Other smaller programs, international organizations, and aid distributing organizations

For today, let’s take a quick look at TEFAP:

TEFAP stands for The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Through the TEFAP program, the US Department of Agriculture sends actual physical food to agencies in each state (such as food banks or soup kitchens) that provide emergency provision for people in need. The organizations have to meet certain criteria, like providing the means to protect the food from spoilage and loss. They are also responsible for making sure that the households receiving the food meet state eligibility standards. The food items provided by TEFAP include things like dry pasta and beans, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, dairy products, etc.

The program started in 1981 as a means to help reduce surplus government food stores while also helping those in need. In 2014, the program cost the government $318.15 million, $49 million of which went to administrative costs. The rest covered the cost of the food. Compared to some of the big programs, like SNAP, NSLP, and WIC, the money spent on TEFAP is small potatoes.

Because many emergency food distributors rely on the products they receive from TEFAP, so their clients have to meet income guidelines to keep the organization eligible for the TEFAP food. There are also food banks and charitable services that do not require users to meet eligibility guidelines. This is important to know because sometimes a person or family’s circumstances change suddenly, while on paper things don’t look so bad. Agencies receiving government support from programs like TEFAP need that layer of accountability, while other organizations can have broader standards because they raise their funds from private donors who believe in their mission. Both types of organization play an important role in feeding the 10-12% of Americans who struggle with food insecurity.

Does your organization receive support from TEFAP? We want to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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