The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Emergency Feeding Needs Page: 5 of 20
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source of food assistance for the needy, and was instrumental in supporting and
expanding a network of emergency food aid providers that also drew food and other
resources from many non-governmental sources.
In the early years (through FY1988), the only significant federal expenditures
involved were appropriations for the grants supporting providers' distribution costs;
the commodities that were provided had already been acquired under programs to
support the agricultural economy.1 However, when commodity holdings began to
drop substantially in the late 1980s because of changes in agricultural policies and the
economy, Congress established the practice of providing federal funds to buy food
commodities specifically for donation through TEFAP (in addition to continuing
support for cash grants for distribution costs).
1988-1990. In 1988, after the Administration indicated plans to phase out the
program because of the lack of commodity inventories, Congress began to mandate
funding (starting at $120 million for FY1989) to buy commodities for distribution
through TEFAP, thereby "entitling" the program to a minimum level of support
regardless of the level of federal commodity holdings. In the 1988 Hunger Prevention
Act, it also created a separate program to buy commodities for soup kitchens and
food banks not receiving TEFAP commodities (mandating funding starting at $40
million for FY1989). While some soup kitchens and food banks (and other entities)
serving the homeless could receive federal food donations through a small separate
initiative to help charitable organizations, and others could participate as local TEFAP
providers, the separate "soup kitchen-food bank" program was established out of a
concern that most commodities for emergency feeding were going to local agencies
that distributed food packages directly to the needy, rather than to shelters, soup
kitchens, and other providers serving meals to the homeless. However, 2 years later,
the 1990 omnibus farm law made commodity and cash-grant funding authority for
TEFAP and soup kitchens/food banks "discretionary" - i.e., expenditures on
commodities and distribution-cost grants were made dependent on annual
appropriations decisions, not "mandated" by the authorizing law entitling the program
to a specific minimum funding level.
Recent History. Although the authorizing law for TEFAP, the Emergency
Food Assistance Act (EFA) of 1983, has been amended a number of times and the
word "Temporary" has been dropped from the program's official title, perhaps the
most important changes since 1988 were made in 1996 (the most recent legislative
actions).2 The 1996 omnibus farm law (P.L. 104-127) extended the discretionary
authority to appropriate money for commodities and distribution-cost grants for
TEFAP and soup kitchen-food bank programs through FY2002. But, more
importantly, the subsequent 1996 welfare reform law (the Personal Responsibility and
Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act; P.L. 104-193) changed how these federal
efforts are structured and funded. The welfare reform law (1) consolidated TEFAP
and the soup kitchen-food bank program in one statute (the EFA) so that states now
There also were some small federal commodity-handling costs that were covered in the
regular budgets for agencies dealing with the commodities (e.g., the CCC).
2Note: The program is still referred to as TEFAP - i.e., The Emergency Food Assistance
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The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Emergency Feeding Needs, report, August 24, 2001; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc805887/m1/5/: accessed March 26, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.