How the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Works for YOU

( – It may be quite challenging to eat healthily on a limited budget. Many low-income communities are surrounded by food deserts, so it can be expensive and hard to get fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality meats, and other nutritious foods.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program, commonly known as TEFAP, aims to close that gap by providing low-income households better access to fresh and nourishing meals.

How Does TEFAP Work?

The food for TEFAP is purchased from domestic suppliers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA then allocates the food to the states based on their unemployment rates and the proportion of their population that falls below the federal poverty line. State governments then distribute the food to neighborhood organizations that help low-income food programs, such food pantries or community kitchens that offer free meals.

Along with financing the organizations for food supply, the government also pays for storage, transportation, office costs, and advertising.

The US government allocates an annual budget to fund TEFAP purchases in addition to other programs that help by making additional commodity purchases. When those purchases are made, additional funds are also paid to TEFAP for distribution to municipal and state governments.

States then donate the TEFAP items to local organizations that distribute food to food banks, such as monthly drive-through food assistance programs, backpack programs, and more. TEFAP goods may often be given out to families each month in the form of food boxes by food banks, too.

The Kinds of Goods TEFAP Supplies

Depending on the preferences of each state and the items that are in season, USDA will distribute various varieties of food through TEFAP.

Non-perishable foods may include:

  • Fruits and Vegetables (frozen, canned or dried)
  • Nuts
  • Enriched and whole-grain products (cereal, pasta and/or rice)

Perishable goods may be provided as well, and these are very popular and healthy choices for those who may not otherwise be able to afford them. This may be the true, unique benefit of the TEFAP program. The commodities with this program may include eggs, poultry, fish and other meats. Dairy products such as cheese and milk may often be included as well. Fresh fruits and vegetables may be difficult for low-income families to find or afford in their local markets, but the TEFAP program can put these in reach as well.

TEFAP includes more than 120 wholesome, high-quality goods that assist and improve low-income Americans’ diets. Not used to cooking from scratch? They also have that covered. Participants can make the meals in the packages using the recipes provided by TEFAP.

 Are TEFAP Packages for YOU?

Since this is a federally funded program, recipients of the food parcels must demonstrate their eligibility using their household income. The amount will vary by state and household size because states decide who is eligible. The USDA has information regarding each state’s application requirements for those who are interested.

TEFAP aid is often available to families who are qualified for other food assistance programs like SNAP or free or reduced school meals.

To qualify for TEFAP funding, programs that provide prepared meals to local people must demonstrate that they primarily serve low-income families. No income documentation is required in order to participate in the meal programs and receive meals.

Programs Providing More Food Assistance

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also provides the following programs:

  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FCPIR): A food assistance program specifically for Native Americans.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers an EBT card with a monthly allowance that may be used to buy food.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) helps expectant moms as well as their newborn and young infants with healthy food.
  • The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) offers breakfasts and lunches to school-aged kids at a discounted cost or no cost, depending on income.
  • The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) gives low-income persons 60 years of age and older extra food.

If you need food assistance, do not hesitate to ask for help. With so many custom programs available, help is out there. While many of these programs will only supplement your monthly needs, they can make a huge difference for any family’s food security.

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