The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

If you or your family needs emergency food stamps, you will want to apply for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in order to get food on the table as soon as possible.

TEFAP, which is administered by the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a program that offers low-income and elderly Americans emergency food and nutrition assistance. It does so by providing USDA-donated foods at no cost.

If you and your family meet the qualifications for TEFAP, you may be able to apply for emergency food stamps through your State Distributing Agency (SDA), since the federal program is run at the state level. According to program guidelines, eligible households include public or private nonprofit organizations, households, and recipients of prepared meals. Through TEFAP, you and your family do not need to choose between food and other basic life necessities. You will be able to provide your family with nutritious USDA foods.

What is TEFAP and how does it work?

Now that you know what TEFAP is, you may be wondering how the program works. Through TEFAP, the USDA buys food, which includes the processing and packaging, and sends it to the states. According to program guidelines, the total amount of food that a state receives is based on its unemployed and low-income population.

Once the states receive the food, they must provide it to the local agencies, such as food banks, which then distribute the food to local organizations, like food pantries or soup kitchens that serve the public directly. Also, TEFAP provides other local organizations with foods that distribute it directly to low-income households, such as community action agencies. States also receive administrative funds that cover the cost of the storage and distribution of USDA foods. According to program rules, the funds must be passed down to local agencies.

Who is eligible for TEFAP?

Before you can determine if you can apply for emergency food stamps online, you must first see if you meet program guidelines.

Related Article: Food Stamps Eligibility Guidelines

According to TEFAP program guidelines, those considered eligible for emergency food assistance include public or private nonprofit organizations, households and recipients of prepared meals. Let’s take a closer look at each.

  1. Public or private nonprofit organizations may receive food as local agencies, as long as they provide nutrition assistance to low-income households, either by distributing food for home use or by the preparation of meals. However, they must meet the below criteria:
  • Organizations that distribute food for home use will need to determine the household eligibility, which is done by applying income standards which are set by the state.
  • Organizations that offer prepared foods must prove that they mostly service the low-income population.
  1. Households that meet eligibility criteria set by the state may receive food for home use. It is essential that you know that it is up to each state to determine which households are eligible to receive TEFAP benefits. States can also choose to have income standards be met through participation in other existing programs, such as welfare programs, in which eligibility is based on income. States can also alter the income criteria for TEFAP to ensure that assistance is provided to those households that need it the most.
  2. Recipients of prepared meals are not subject to a means test since they are considered needy.

NOTE: When you apply for emergency food stamps, the USDA and its agencies, offices and employees cannot discriminate against applicants based on their race, national origin, sex, age or disability.

What kind of foods are available through TEFAP?

Now that you know that you qualify for emergency food stamps, you may be curious as to which foods are available through TEFAP. According to program guidelines, the kinds of foods that the USDA purchases for TEFAP depends on the preference of each state and the agriculture market conditions. However, there are almost 90 high-quality and nutritious products that are available. Categories of foods that are available through emergency snap benefits include:

  • Fruits, such as apples, apple juice, applesauce, apricots, fruits and nuts, oranges, orange juice, peaches, pears, plums and raisins.
  • Vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, corn, mixed vegetables, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, spinach, sweet potato, tomato juice, tomato sauce and vegetable soup.
  • Protein foods, such as Alaska pollock, beef, catfish, chicken, eggs, peanut butter, peanuts, pork, salmon and tuna.
  • Dairy, such as cheese and milk.
  • Grains, such as bakery mix, cereal, crackers, flour, grits, oats, pasta, rice and tortillas.
  • Oils, such as olive oil and vegetable.
  • Other, like cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup.

For a more detailed catalog, you can find a complete list of foods available through TEFAP on the Food Distribution website.

I am a TEFAP Recipient. Do I qualify for additional food and nutrition assistance?

If you receive aid through the emergency food assistance program, you may be wondering if you are eligible for additional FNS programs. According to program guidelines, TEFAP household may also be eligible for the following programs:

To apply for any of the above programs, you must do so directly.

How can I apply for TEFAP?

You are now ready to apply for emergency food stamps since you now know that you meet program requirements. To sign up for TEFAP, you must do so by contacting your SDA, since the program is distributed at the state level. However, a list of state contacts can be found on the USDA’s website.

If you are a person with disabilities who need an alternative means of communication to receive TEFAP program information, such as large print, audiotape, American Sign Language or Braille, you should contact your SDA. If you are hard of hearing or deaf, or have a speech disability, you may contact the USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Lastly, you may be able to request information about the program in a language other than English.

Related Article: How to Apply for Food Stamps

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