The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Emergency Feeding Needs Page: 6 of 20
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get a single TEFAP grant of commodities and distribution-cost funds for all types of
emergency feeding organizations and (2) mandated funding of $100 million a year
(through FY2002) to purchase food commodities for the program (in addition to any
commodities that might be bought with money appropriated under discretionary
authority in the EFA and any bonus commodities that might be made available at the
Agriculture Department's discretion). This second change was intended to entitle the
program to a minimum level of commodity support when regularly appropriated
money is not made available to buy commodities or excess federal commodity
holdings for TEFAP distribution are minimal or non-existent. It was accomplished
through an amendment to the Food Stamp Act effectively setting aside $100 million
a year in "entitlement" appropriations under the Act to purchase TEFAP
commodities. As a result, the majority of funding for TEFAP (i.e., for commodity
purchases) typically is now made available under the aegis of the Food Stamp Act
appropriation - unless Congress chooses to appropriate additional money for
commodities under authority provided in the EFA (which it did in FY1997). The
minority of funding, money for distribution cost grants, is appropriated under the
authority of the EFA.
Legislative and Funding Authorities. Since 1996, TEFAP (including
assistance for soup kitchens, food banks, and other organizations serving meals to the
homeless) has been run under the legislative authority contained in the EFA, as
amended. It sets the minimal federal rules that govern program operations. However,
funding provisions for TEFAP are more complicated. The EFA specifically
authorizes appropriations to cover cash grants to help with non-federal direct and
indirect distribution costs of states and local recipient agencies (up to $50 million a
year through FY2002); it also provides general authority for the purchase of
commodities, above the level provided under the Food Stamp Act appropriation
(noted above) or any bonus commodities, if money is appropriated. While money for
both commodity purchases and distribution-cost grants was appropriated under EFA
authority in FY1997, it was used only to appropriate money for distribution-cost
grants in FY1998 and FY1999. On the other hand, Section 27 of the Food Stamp Act
requires the Secretary of Agriculture to use $100 million a year of funds made
available under the Act to purchase food commodities for TEFAP.3 This requirement
is in addition to commodities purchased out of any funds appropriated under EFA
authority or any bonus commodities that might be made available at the Agriculture
Department's discretion. However, it should be noted that supplemental
appropriations legislation for FY1997 lowered this $100 million "entitlement" to $80
million, the FY1999 appropriations law decreased it to $90 million, and the FY2000
appropriations law dropped it to $98 million.
History of Federal Support.4 As noted earlier, through FY1988, federal
support for TEFAP consisted mainly of bonus commodities acquired and donated at
3It should be noted that, in the years since this set-aside was enacted, food stamp
appropriations have been well above the amount needed to operate the Food Stamp program,
and they have taken into account the TEFAP set-aside. As a result, the $100 million set-aside
has not affected food stamp benefits.
4The following discussion covers support for both TEFAP and the program for soup kitchens
and food banks created in 1988 and later merged with TEFAP.
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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/m1/6/: accessed March 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.