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Learn About the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is available to seniors and other individuals who need help accessing food. TEFAP eligibility standards are set differently in each state, but in general, seniors need to have a low income in order to qualify. Eligibility for emergency food assistance is also based on a senior’s participation in other social services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps. Through TEFAP, seniors can receive food items from a variety of community resources such as food banks. States receive food directly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is in charge of administering the program. TEFAP is similar to other food assistance services, such as SNAP. Even though TEFAP is sometimes referred to as emergency SNAP benefits, it is important to note that these are different programs with their own rules and procedures. Below, seniors can learn how to meet the eligibility criteria for emergency assistance and how to submit an application.

How the Emergency Food Assistance Program for Seniors Works

Before you apply for emergency food assistance, it is helpful to learn how the program works. The Emergency Food Assistance Program receives funds that are used to purchase USDA foods. These items are distributed to each state based on the level of need. In general, states with a higher unemployment rate and poverty level receive more benefits. States also receive funding from TEFAP, which helps local organizations store their food and administer their services. Community groups can apply for TEFAP resources in order to receive items for distribution. Organizations include food pantries, soup kitchens and other community programs that provide food to individuals in need.

TEFAP Requirements for Seniors

A senior’s eligibility for emergency food assistance is determined by each state’s food distribution agency. TEFAP eligibility standards are not the same from one state to the next. In general, seniors need to be living in poverty in order to qualify for assistance. Seniors who are enrolled in other public assistance programs may automatically be eligible for assistance from TEFAP as well. For example, being eligible for SNAP food stamps often means that a senior will be accepted for TEFAP assistance.

The specific qualifications for emergency food assistance are determined by local agencies that receive food resources from the USDA. While Emergency Food Assistance Program eligibility criteria can vary, seniors usually need to live in the geographic area of whichever organization they wish to receive assistance from. For example, a food bank can require applicants to reside in the service area of a certain food distributor in order to qualify for assistance. Learn more about the TEFAP requirements by downloading our comprehensive guide.

How to Apply for Emergency Food Assistance

If you believe you are eligible for emergency food assistance, you can visit an organization that receives donated USDA foods. Remember, emergency TEFAP benefits are available at many different food pantries, soup kitchens and community organizations. If you do not know where to begin, contact your state’s food distribution department for more information on where to seek assistance in your community. Applying for emergency food assistance only requires that you submit a form that verifies your eligibility for assistance. Most organizations that participate in TEFAP refer to this document as a self-declaration form. Unlike other food assistance programs, your eligibility for Emergency Food Assistance services is not verified through an interview process. Community organizations that issue emergency food items are responsible for determining who qualifies for their services.

Once you are deemed eligible for TEFAP, you may begin receiving benefits from the organization that you submitted a form to. Your senior emergency SNAP benefits will continue as long as you meet the requirements for assistance. Because the TEFAP eligibility criteria are established by local programs, you will have to be aware of the specific income requirements that apply to you. Any time you exceed these limits or are otherwise ineligible for TEFAP services, you should notify the agency that provides your food assistance. For specific information to help you apply for TEFAP services, download our complimentary guide today.

How to Use Emergency TEFAP Benefits

When you apply for emergency senior food assistance, you can receive a variety of food items. The availability of emergency TEFAP benefits will depend on which foods have been donated to the organization that provides your food resources. When you participate in TEFAP, the program is not designed to meet all of your nutritional needs. However, the program can help you fill your pantry with nutritious foods. Through TEFAP, you can receive both fresh and canned items including fruits and vegetables, grains, protein sources and other commodities. To help you use your emergency SNAP benefits, there are a variety of information sheets and recipes available from the USDA. Food pantries oftentimes provide fact sheets with food items, which makes it easier for you to use all of the commodities you receive. If you do not currently receive benefits from other food assistance programs, you may qualify for other programs in addition to TEFAP. Participating in the SNAP food stamps program in addition to TEFAP can help you meet your nutritional needs.