The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

Whether or not you receive SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) can assist if you are hungry.

What is The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) ?

The Emergency Food Assistance Program is a federal program that offers free emergency food assistance to low-income Americans, including elderly people, to help them supplement their diets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides commodities foods to state distribution agencies under TEFAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a variety of nutritious, high-quality USDA Foods available to state distributing agencies through TEFAP. The amount of food that each state receives is determined by the proportion of residents who are unemployed and have incomes that are below the federal poverty line.

States then give the food to local agencies, such as food banks and Indian Tribal Organizations, who subsequently give it to local organizations that directly serve the general public, such as soup kitchens and food pantries. States also give the food to different local groups, such community action agencies, which then give it to low-income families directly.

These local agencies provide USDA Foods to qualified individuals for use in their homes or to cook and serve meals to large groups of people. States also get administrative money from TEFAP to help with the storage and distribution of USDA foods. Part of these money must be distributed to regional organizations. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a department of the USDA, is in charge of managing TEFAP on a federal basis.

How Does The Emergency Food Assistance Program Work ?

The Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) component of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides funding for TEFAP. State Distributing Agencies can obtain commodity foods from the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA. States donate the food to local agencies that primarily help the general populace (food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.). 

The local organizations either use the food to prepare and serve meals in a communal setting or give it to eligible beneficiaries for household consumption. Food recipients must fit certain requirements regarding their household's eligibility and income. TEFAP benefits can be accessed in one of two ways: by going to a food shelf or by dining at a soup kitchen, community center, or other gathering place.

Who is Eligible for The Emergency Food Assistance Program ?

Food may be purchased through TEFAP by public or private nonprofit organizations that offer low-income Americans nutrition assistance, either by distributing food for personal use or by preparing meals to be distributed in a communal setting. They also need to fulfil the following requirements:

  • Organizations that provide food for domestic consumption must utilize state-set income guidelines to determine which households qualify.
  • Organizations that offer cooked meals must show that the majority of their clients are low-income people.

Food from the TEFAP is available to households who meet the requirements set forth by the state. State-set income requirements may be satisfied by taking part in additional federal, state, or local food, health, or welfare programs for which eligibility is determined by income, at the state's discretion. States might change the qualifying requirements to make sure that only the most needy households receive aid. People who receive prepared meals are regarded as having low incomes and are not put through a means test.

Income Limits for Emergency Food Assistance Program

Low-income people whose household resides in the service region and who fall within the federal income guidelines. If a household's total gross income is less than 185% of the federal poverty level, it is qualified to receive a TEFAP package. See the table below.

Total Household Income (based on 185% of Poverty)
Effective July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023

Household Size




Household of 1




Household of 2




Household of 3




Household of 4




Household of 5




Household of 6




Household of 7




Household of 8




For each additional
family member add:




Types of Foods Available through the Emergency Food Assistance Program

Participants can visit their local Distribution Site to receive a TEFAP kit for their home at least once per month (Food Pantry). These packages of food are shelf-stable, so refrigeration is not necessary. Food banks have the ability to order a wide range of products, subject to availability.

Agricultural market factors and state preferences affect the kinds of foods USDA purchases for TEFAP. There are nearly 90 high-quality, nutrient-dense products available, including canned and fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and dried eggs, meat, poultry, and fish, as well as milk and cheese, nuts, bottle juices, bread, grains, and pasta products.

How to Apply for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) ?

There is no standard TEFAP application form, nevertheless, as each state determines its own eligibility requirements, you might need to meet certain requirements or follow specific procedures in order to take advantage of the program. Contact your State Distributing Agency for more information about Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

When you visit the website, you will be prompted to provide details such your name, address, phone number, birthdate, and household size (number of people living in your home with you). Additionally, you will be required to certify that you are a resident of the service area for the site, that you satisfy the current income eligibility requirements, and that you will not sell, trade, barter, or swap TEFAP food for services.

Required Documents

When picking up a TEFAP package, remember to have a photo ID with you. Please bring additional documentation, such as a utility bill, lease agreement, or letter from an official agency, if your photo ID does not show your current residence. Know the intersections or place where you spend the night if you are suffering homelessness.

Immediate Food Assistance :
  • To identify community organizations and agencies that can help you get food in an emergency, call 211.
  • Call the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273). The hotline is open from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
  • To locate a food bank or pantry in your area, contact community or religious organizations.

How to Contact TEFAP ?

For more information about The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), visit FNS TEFAP homepage or email