The Emergency Food Assistance Program

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federally funded program that helps improve the diets of low-income Americans, regardless of age, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.

TEFAP plays a vital role in providing food assistance by supplementing other donated foods distributed by the emergency feeding organizations.

USDA buys the food, including processing and packaging, and ships it to the States. The states provide the food to eligible recipient agencies, local Emergency Feeding Organizations (EFOs). These EFOs may include:

  1. Food Banks – Provide donated food to other organizations like food pantries, soup kitchens, hunger relief centers, or other food or feeding centers.
  2. Food Pantries – Distribute food to low-income and unemployed households for home consumption.
  3. Soup Kitchens and Other Feeding Sites – Provide meals to low-income and the homeless on a regular basis.

The amount received by each State depends on its low-income and unemployed population. State agencies work out details of administration and distribution. They select local organizations that either directly distribute to households or serve meals, or distribute to other local organizations that perform these functions.

Commodity Distribution
Under TEFAP, commodity foods are made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to States. States provide the food to local agencies that they have selected, usually food banks, which in turn, distribute the food to soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve the public.

Households that meet State eligibility criteria:
Each State sets criteria for determining what households are eligible to receive food for home consumption. Income standards 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.

Income criteria:

States can adjust the income criteria in order to ensure that assistance is provided only to those households most in need. However, recipients of prepared meals are considered to be needy and are not subject to a means test.
TEFAP is administered at the Federal level by the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. State agencies receive the food and supervise overall distribution.

Types of food available:

The types of commodity foods USDA purchases for TEFAP distribution vary depending on the preferences of States and agricultural market conditions. Commodities may include canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, beans, rice and/or grain products. The protein items may include canned salmon, tuna, peanut butter, and occasionally chicken or meat. The food assistance is intended to be a supplement. Supplies and amounts may vary; typically the foods will provide groceries for a period of 3-5 days.

The state is divided into seven service regions or zones to provide for equitable distribution of commodities. To locate a Community Action Agency in your county, click Community Action Agency

Eligibility for TEFAP:

Each State sets criteria for determining what households are eligible to receive food for home consumption. The Income Criteria for Idaho is set at 133% of the Federal Poverty Income Table

Application process for TEFAP

To apply for food assistance or determine eligibility to receive TEFAP commodities, contact a food pantry in your community. For assistance locating a food pantry, soup kitchen or other emergency feeding organization in the area, contact the Community Action Agency in your county. To locate your Local Community Action Agency, click this link: Community Action Agency

Additional Information:

Additional program information can also be found:



“In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs, or disability.  

“To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 ( TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.”