Program Description

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a Federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans, including elderly people, by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost. Through TEFAP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase a variety of nutritious, high-quality USDA Foods, and makes those foods available to state distributing agencies. The amount of food each state receives out of the total amount of food provided is based on the number of unemployed persons and the number of people with incomes below the poverty level in the state. States provide the food to local agencies, including Indian Tribal Organizations and other Tribal and Native entities, that they have selected, usually food banks, which in turn distribute the food to local organizations, such as soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve the public. States also provide the food to other types of local organizations, such as community action agencies, which distribute the foods directly to low-income households.

General Program Requirements

1. Public or private nonprofit organizations that provide nutrition assistance to low-income Americans, either through the distribution of food for home use or the preparation of meals to be served in a congregate setting, may receive food as local agencies.

They must also meet the following criteria:

  • Organizations that distribute food for home use must determine household eligibility by applying income standards set by the state.
  • Organizations that provide prepared meals must demonstrate that they serve predominately low-income persons.


2. Households that meet state eligibility criteria may receive food for home use. States set income standards, which may, at the state's discretion, be met through participation in other existing Federal, state, or local food, health, or welfare programs for which eligibility is based on income. States can adjust eligibility criteria to ensure that assistance is provided only to those households most in need.

3. Recipients of prepared meals are considered to be low-income and are not subject to a means test.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

Since this program is administered at the State level, we suggest that you contact your State Distributing Agency for more information about TEFAP.

Program Contact Information

Additional Information

Entities Eligible for Grant AssistanceFederally Recognized Tribes and Tribal Organizations, Other Tribal/Native Entities, Non-Tribal/Non-Native Entities
Current Method of Tribal EligibilityTribes Only Eligible for Passthrough/Subgrants
Do Tribes compete with other entities for funding from the program?Yes
Type of Assistance ProvidedDirect Assistance, Grant
Recurring Base Funding for TribesNo
Funding TypeDiscretionary
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number10.5568, 10.596
Matching Funds RequiredYes
Can the funding from the program be renewedYes