Food Support is Available Through TEFAP

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Millions of American households experience some sort of food insecurity each year. For some households, their situation can become so bad that they need immediate assistance. Fortunately, there is somewhere to turn in these circumstances. Programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) can benefit low-income households and individuals when they need it most. Don’t worry, there is no application process or long waiting period to benefit from TEFAP! If you’re in need of relief right away, you may be able to benefit from a local organization that provides assistance thanks to this program.

If you’re struggling to put food on the table, it’s likely that you can benefit from an assistance option long term. In the U.S., multiple government programs work together to provide nourishing meals and eliminate hunger among those with low incomes. Later in this article, we will cover a few additional nutrition assistance programs you can consider.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Overview

TEFAP is a federal program that supplies food assistance to households and elderly individuals in need. This program isn’t meant to complete the diets of those in need. Rather, individuals and families can turn to TEFAP to supplement their diet. This initiative is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture, which supplies 100% USDA foods and funds to states that take part in the program. The main goal of this program is to help those who are food insecure, ensuring they have access to healthy food options.

TEFAP’s Role in Local Communities

TEFAP plays a vital role in supporting local organizations such as food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters. These entities distribute the USDA-provided foods to those in need within their communities, helping to relieve hunger and improve overall quality of life.

State agencies are in charge of distributing food that ultimately goes to organizations that serve their communities directly. However, not every state that participates receives an equal amount of resources. The USDA looks at certain statistics within the state to decide how much of a need there is. For example, unemployment rates within a state play a role in how much resources are set aside for that particular state.

Eligibility Criteria for TEFAP

To qualify for TEFAP, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements put in place by their state. These criteria may include income guidelines, household size, or involvement in other government support programs. For example, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be able to qualify for additional assistance with TEFAP. It’s important to check your local agency’s specific requirements before applying.

Type of Foods Provided Through The Program

The types of foods distributed through TEFAP vary depending on availability. With that said, it’s typical for the food packages to include nutritious items such as fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources like meat and poultry, and dairy products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture works with food banks and other local organizations to ensure the foods supplied are both nutritious and acceptable for those in need. Examples of what you can expect with TEFAP include the following:

  • Fruits: Fresh, canned, or dried fruits like apples, oranges, peaches, or raisins
  • Vegetables: Fresh or canned vegetables such as carrots, green beans, corn, or peas
  • Grains: Whole grain items like rice, pasta, or cereal
  • Poultry & Meat Products: Canned meats (chicken/turkey), beef stew, or chili
  • Dairy Products: Non-fat dry milk powder, cheese, yogurt, etc.

To find out where you can benefit from TEFAP near you, visit your state’s Department of Social Services website. You can also contact local food banks directly to inquire about their participation in the program. Remember that this assistance is available to help end hunger within communities; don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re struggling with access to nutritious meals.

Alternative Food Assistance Programs to Consider 

TEFAP provides a much-needed lifeline for those who don’t make a lot of income or cannot find employment. However, there are additional federal nutrition assistance programs that you may be able to benefit from if you’re experiencing hardship. A few other programs you may want to consider include:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Special Milk Program (SMP)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program that aims to help people in need afford groceries. Eligible recipients receive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase food items from approved retailers. This assistance option enables recipients to access healthy food options. Because SNAP is a food assistance program, there is a limit to what recipients are able to purchase using their benefits. Items that are commonly found at a grocery store that are not eligible for purchase using EBT include:

  • Tobacco products
  • Hygiene products such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
  • Vitamins, medicine, and supplements
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Live animals (with exceptions)
  • Other non-food items

Meanwhile, items that are eligible for purchase using EBT cards  include the following:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Produce such as fruits and vegetables
  • Bread
  • Cereal, rice, and other grain products
  • Snack foods
  • Beverages that do not contain alcohol
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and/or plants that grow food for the family to eat

Potential Benefits You Can Earn with SNAP

In order to determine whether or not you can benefit from SNAP, you need to apply! How much you are eligible to receive in monthly grocery assistance with this program depends on your situation. However, there are general guidelines that SNAP has in place. These guidelines include the maximum amount of benefits a household can receive. The maximum values are based on the number of qualifying members within an approved household. The current values are:

  • 1-person households can get up to $291 per month
  • 2-person households can get up to $535 per month
  • 3-person households can get up to $766 per month
  • 4-person households can get up to $973 per month
  • 5-person households can get up to $1,155 per month
  • 6-person households can get up to $1,386 per month
  • 7-person households can get up to $1,532 per month
  • 8-person households can get up to $1,751 per month
  • Households larger than 8 people can get an additional $219 per person

Keep in mind that no household is guaranteed to receive the maximum amount of assistance per month. Furthermore, eligibility criteria differ between states. The above values are current and applicable for October 1, 2023 to September 30, 2024.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a valuable food assistance program designed to provide nutritious meals during lunchtime for students while in school. This nutrition assistance program originated in 1946 when President Truman passed the National School Lunch Act. Public schools, nonprofit private schools, and certain childcare centers can participate in this program. By offering healthy food options at school, NSLP promotes good eating habits among children and helps end hunger in low-income communities. Millions of children, each year, are able to benefit from low-cost or even free lunches thanks to NSLP!

Special Milk Program (SMP)

The Special Milk Program (SMP) is designed to help schools that do not already participate in any other federal nutrition programs. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, schools that are participants in programs like NSLP and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) that give milk to certain children can still qualify for SMP. These children include those in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten programs.

The main goal of this nutrition program is to ensure students have access to enough nutrition throughout their school day. They accomplish this by offering milk at a reduced price or completely free, depending on eligibility requirements.

Conclusion

Dealing with any sort of food insecurity can be a scary situation. Fortunately, if you’re experiencing financial hardships and are having a hard time keeping food on the table, you have options. One federal program that doesn’t require an application or months-long waiting period to benefit from is The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides both nutritious foods and funds between participating states. State agencies are then in charge of delivering food to local organizations such as food banks and soup kitchens. These local organizations are where you can turn when you need assistance!

There are various other federal nutrition assistance programs that can provide you relief as well! Examples include:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • Special Milk Program (SMP)

Each one of these nutrition programs can benefit your family in a different way. No one should go to bed hungry! If you’re in need, please do not hesitate to take action. One of these programs is bound to provide you with the relief you need (hopefully!).