The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Emergency Feeding Needs Page: 4 of 20
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The Emergency Food Assistance Program
and Emergency Feeding Needs
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP or EFAP) provides support
- in the form of federally donated food commodities and cash grants - for food
distribution to needy persons served by public and private nonprofit emergency
feeding organizations, such as food banks, food pantries, hunger relief centers,
emergency shelters, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and local government
entities. Funding is authorized through FY2002, and federal aid consists of: (1) food
commodities bought specifically for the program, (2) grants to help cover distributing
agencies' commodity handling and distribution costs, and (3) when available, "bonus"
commodities from inventories of the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit
Corporation (CCC). Federally donated commodities and cash distribution-cost grants
flow to local emergency feeding agencies through the states' food distribution
agencies, which receive their funds and commodity allocations according to a formula.
States determine which local agencies will qualify for assistance, what eligibility
requirements will be placed on those applying for TEFAP-supported aid, and how
commodities are distributed in the state. Federal rules are minimal. With the
exception of the Federal Emergency Management Administration's Emergency Food
and Shelter program (typically funded at $100 million a year), TEFAP is the only
major federal food aid effort aimed at serving the homeless and other needy persons
who do not get, do not apply for, or are ineligible for other federal food assistance
and nutrition support programs - or who find that the benefits of these programs do
not cover their needs.
The Early Years. TEFAP was begun in 1981-82 as a temporary expedient
designed, at least initially, to dispose of huge stockpiles of government-held food
commodities. Establishment of TEFAP also occurred in the aftermath of noticeable
reductions in the coverage of and benefits provided by federal food assistance
programs (e.g., food stamps, school meal programs) legislated in 1981 and 1982, and
in the midst of an economic recession and concern over "hunger" and homelessness
among the needy.
In response, the Administration began distribution of excess federally held food
commodities in 1981-1982. These commodities, often termed "bonus" commodities,
are those in excess of those needed to fulfill other domestic and international federal
commitments to provide food commodities (e.g., to schools operating school meal
programs). In 1983, Congress followed up with legislative authority that created
what was known for more than a decade as the Temporary Emergency Food
Assistance Program (TEFAP) - as well as funding for grants to help with
distribution costs. Establishment of the TEFAP helped reduce federal commodity
stocks (and storage costs associated with holding them), provided an alternative
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The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Emergency Feeding Needs, report, August 24, 2001; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc805887/m1/4/: accessed February 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.