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The Emergency Food Assistance Program: Who Qualifies

Updated : August 4th, 2020

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), formerly known as the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, is a federal program that provides free food assistance to low-income families. The program was established in 1983 and is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the federal level. The program aims at reducing hunger.

Here, let’s have a detailed look at the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

More about The Emergency Food Assistance Program

Through the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchases and makes nutritious and high-quality, USDA food available to state distributing agencies.

The amount of food the states receive will be based on the number of people with income below the state-defined poverty level and the number of unemployed persons. States will then distribute the food to agencies such as food banks. In turn, these entities will distribute the food to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other local agencies that provide food directly to those in need. 

The USDA foods can be used for household consumption as well as to serve meals in a congregate setting. TEFAP also provides states with funds to support the storage and distribution of USDA foods.

Who Qualifies For TEFAP?

Nonprofit private and public entities that distribute food for preparing meals to be served at congregate settings or household consumption can receive commodities under TEFAP. 

Households may also be eligible for TEFAP food but only for home consumption. To receive the food, they must meet certain eligibility requirements, as mentioned below.

1. Total income of the household must be below or at 130% of the poverty level for the number of people living in the family

2. The household should qualify for any of the below-listed programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Aid to Needy Disabled (AND)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid Eligible Foster Children

Note – The “income” above refers to your gross income before any expenses, deductions, etc. The gross income includes wages, salaries, unemployment compensation, Social Security, pensions, public assistance or welfare payments, etc. 

Recipients participating in a soup kitchen are not subjected to any test as it is assumed that those seeking a meal are needy.

Income Requirements 

Households should also meet income guidelines. The requirements may, however, vary from one state to another. For instance, the income eligibility in Michigan is as below.

Family Size Weekly  Monthly  Annual 
1 $490 $2,126  $25,520
2 $663 $2,873 $34,480
3 $835 $3,620 $43,440
4 $1,007 $4,366 $52,400
5 $1,180 $5,113  $61,360
6 $1,352 $5,860 $70,320
7 $1,524 $6,606 $79,280
8 $1,696 $7,353 $88,240
For each additional member add $172 $746 $8,960

In states like New York, anyone can qualify for TEFAP regardless of immigration status, income, etc. 

How To Apply For TEFAP? 

To apply for TEFAP, contact the state distribution agency in your state. You can find information about the agencies at

Note – When you collect the food, you are required to submit documents like a utility bill.

What Types Of Food Are Available?

Under TEFAP program, you can receive various types of food such as fruits, canned vegetables, pasta, beans, nonfat dry milk, rice, egg, and grain products. It may also include peanut butter, meat, and tuna. Usually, you can collect food any number of times, but the guidelines may vary with state. 

TEFAP Program During COVID-19

To make sure that more families have access to healthy food during the pandemic, states like Wisconsin increased the income limit to collect food through TEFAP program. In states like Pennsylvania, the unemployed, service workers, and hourly wages, employees can receive food from local food banks or food pantries.  

Final Words 

The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides nutritious USDA food to the needy and ensures they live a healthy life. The program does not discriminate based on color, race, gender, age, or disability. However, if you have been denied food due to the listed factors, you can write a letter to the USDA.  


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  1. If I’m laid off and I go back to work for three or four weeks and get laid off again do I have to do the one week waiting period before I can collect again?

  2. I was informed by the automated phone system that my claim for last week 06/12/2021 was not processed due to an outstanding issue on said claim. I have tried for four days to reach a human to assist me in this matter. It’s been impossible! Please help.

    1. Anne,

      Wish we could do something for you. This is a private forum. Please continue following up regularly. You can perhaps write them an email.

  3. I am trying to request payments from aug 2015 up until 2017 I never received a debit card and just assumed that I was denied. So i did not request payment but would like to now

    1. Katrina,

      That period is past and you might not be able to claim retroactively. Please write the office an email if you wish to.

  4. Ive provided documents that were needed and i have not receive any type of response i have went without benefits for 6 weeks could someone please contact me

    1. Sondra,

      Please note this is a private forum and we do not have access to your claim. Please follow up with the office directly.

  5. To whom it may concern, Please what is wrong with the site to claim weeks? I am at the Career Source and they said it has been acting up for 2 days. I am frustrated so I can imagine how many others are like me. I was laid off 4/16/2021. My UI is showing active but still under review. Is there anything you need from me to get this going? I will give it to you. Please July rent coming up. I am tapped from asking from family to get me thru now. Please please please any answers for me? I am begging right now. I can not be late on rent or they will not renew my lease when it is time. I can not move, to costly. I have been here for 20 years. Please any suggestions. I will pay back July rent if my UI goes thru. No reason why it shouldn’t. Please help. Thanks again, Kay

    1. Kay,

      It must be a tough time for you. This is a private forum and we do not have access to your claim. Please chase the Office directly.

  6. I just filed for my first weeks benefit and am trying to change the payment method. It does not give me the verify who you are questions?

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