Order Code RL30164
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
The Emergency Food Assistance Program and
Emergency Feeding Needs
Updated August 24, 2001
Joe Richardson and Donna V. Porter
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Emergency Food Assistance Program
and Emergency Feeding Needs
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP or EFAP) supports
emergency feeding efforts. It provides federally donated food commodities and cash
grants to states for food distribution to needy persons served by public and private
nonprofit emergency feeding organizations, such as food banks, food pantries,
emergency shelters, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and local governments.
Federal support consists of: (1) “entitlement” food commodities bought
specifically for the program (a $100 million a year set-aside of funds appropriated
under the Food Stamp Act budget account for TEFAP purchases), (2) annual
appropriations for grants to help cover distributing agencies’ food distribution costs
(typically $45 million a year), and (3) to the extent they are available, discretionary
donations of “bonus” commodities from federal inventories of foods acquired in
support of the agricultural economy (e.g., $162 million worth in FY2000).
Commodities and cash distribution-cost grants flow to local emergency feeding
agencies through the states, which receive their funds and commodity allocations
under a formula accounting for unemployment and poverty. Federal rules are
minimal; states determine which local agencies qualify, what eligibility rules will be
for applicants, and how and which foods will be distributed to local agencies.
For FY2001, the Agriculture Department appropriations law appropriated $45
million for distribution-cost grants and provided the full $100 million Food Stamp Act
set-aside for food purchases. The extent of additional FY2001 bonus commodity
donations is not yet known; however, preliminary estimates indicate that they will
substantially exceed the $162 million provided in FY2000.
For FY2002, the Administration proposed using the full $100 million Food
Stamp Act set-aside for TEFAP food purchases and appropriating $45 million for
distribution-cost grants. The House version of the FY2002 Agriculture Department
appropriations law (H.R. 2330) approves the $100 million set-aside and increases the
appropriation for distribution costs to $50 million. The Senate’s version (S. 1191)
approves the $100 million set-aside, but includes no increase for distribution costs.
A perception that need for emergency food aid has risen (drawn from increased
demands on emergency feeding agencies and reduced receipt of food stamps) has led
to calls for increased help — especially with the cost of distributing food donations
received by emergency feeding agencies from both the private and public sectors.
The House Agriculture Committee has approved its version of the omnibus
“farm bill” (H.R. 2646; H.Rept. 107-191, Part I). This reauthorizes and increases
TEFAP funding by $40 million a year, and sets aside new money for distribution
costs. On August 13, 2001, P.L. 107-25, an emergency agricultural assistance
measure, was enacted. It provides an extra one-time amount of $10 million for
TEFAP distribution expenses.
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Early Years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1988-1990 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Recent History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Legislative and Funding Authorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
History of Federal Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Current Status of Federal Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
FY1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
FY2000 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
FY2001 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
FY2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Issues and Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
The Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Emergency Feeding Needs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Second Harvest — Hunger 1997: The Face and Facts . . . . . . . . . . . 14
U.S. Department of Agriculture — Household Food Security
in the United States, 1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
U.S. Conference of Mayors — A Status Report on
Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities: 2000 . . . . . . . . 16
The Decline in Food Stamp Participation: A Report to Congress . . . 17
List of Tables
Table 1. EFAP/TEFAP, Soup Kitchens & Food Banks:
Value of Commodities and Distribution-cost Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Emergency Food Assistance Program
and Emergency Feeding Needs
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP or EFAP) provides support
— in the form of federally donated food commodities and cash grants — for food
distribution to needy persons served by public and private nonprofit emergency
feeding organizations, such as food banks, food pantries, hunger relief centers,
emergency shelters, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and local government
entities. Funding is authorized through FY2002, and federal aid consists of: (1) food
commodities bought specifically for the program, (2) grants to help cover distributing
agencies’ commodity handling and distribution costs, and (3) when available, “bonus”
commodities from inventories of the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit
Corporation (CCC). Federally donated commodities and cash distribution-cost grants
flow to local emergency feeding agencies through the states’ food distribution
agencies, which receive their funds and commodity allocations according to a formula.
States determine which local agencies will qualify for assistance, what eligibility
requirements will be placed on those applying for TEFAP-supported aid, and how
commodities are distributed in the state. Federal rules are minimal. With the
exception of the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Emergency Food
and Shelter program (typically funded at $100 million a year), TEFAP is the only
major federal food aid effort aimed at serving the homeless and other needy persons
who do not get, do not apply for, or are ineligible for other federal food assistance
and nutrition support programs — or who find that the benefits of these programs do
not cover their needs.
The Early Years. TEFAP was begun in 1981-82 as a temporary expedient
designed, at least initially, to dispose of huge stockpiles of government-held food
commodities. Establishment of TEFAP also occurred in the aftermath of noticeable
reductions in the coverage of and benefits provided by federal food assistance
programs (e.g., food stamps, school meal programs) legislated in 1981 and 1982, and
in the midst of an economic recession and concern over “hunger” and homelessness
among the needy.
In response, the Administration began distribution of excess federally held food
commodities in 1981-1982. These commodities, often termed “bonus” commodities,
are those in excess of those needed to fulfill other domestic and international federal
commitments to provide food commodities (e.g., to schools operating school meal
programs). In 1983, Congress followed up with legislative authority that created
what was known for more than a decade as the Temporary Emergency Food
Assistance Program (TEFAP) — as well as funding for grants to help with
distribution costs. Establishment of the TEFAP helped reduce federal commodity
stocks (and storage costs associated with holding them), provided an alternative
source of food assistance for the needy, and was instrumental in supporting and
expanding a network of emergency food aid providers that also drew food and other
resources from many non-governmental sources.
In the early years (through FY1988), the only significant federal expenditures
involved were appropriations for the grants supporting providers’ distribution costs;
the commodities that were provided had already been acquired under programs to
support the agricultural economy.1 However, when commodity holdings began to
drop substantially in the late 1980s because of changes in agricultural policies and the
economy, Congress established the practice of providing federal funds to buy food
commodities specifically for donation through TEFAP (in addition to continuing
support for cash grants for distribution costs).
1988-1990. In 1988, after the Administration indicated plans to phase out the
program because of the lack of commodity inventories, Congress began to mandate
funding (starting at $120 million for FY1989) to buy commodities for distribution
through TEFAP, thereby “entitling” the program to a minimum level of support
regardless of the level of federal commodity holdings. In the 1988 Hunger Prevention
Act, it also created a separate program to buy commodities for soup kitchens and
food banks not receiving TEFAP commodities (mandating funding starting at $40
million for FY1989). While some soup kitchens and food banks (and other entities)
serving the homeless could receive federal food donations through a small separate
initiative to help charitable organizations, and others could participate as local TEFAP
providers, the separate “soup kitchen-food bank” program was established out of a
concern that most commodities for emergency feeding were going to local agencies
that distributed food packages directly to the needy, rather than to shelters, soup
kitchens, and other providers serving meals to the homeless. However, 2 years later,
the 1990 omnibus farm law made commodity and cash-grant funding authority for
TEFAP and soup kitchens/food banks “discretionary” — i.e., expenditures on
commodities and distribution-cost grants were made dependent on annual
appropriations decisions, not “mandated” by the authorizing law entitling the program
to a specific minimum funding level.
Recent History. Although the authorizing law for TEFAP, the Emergency
Food Assistance Act (EFA) of 1983, has been amended a number of times and the
word “Temporary” has been dropped from the program’s official title, perhaps the
most important changes since 1988 were made in 1996 (the most recent legislative
actions).2 The 1996 omnibus farm law (P.L. 104-127) extended the discretionary
authority to appropriate money for commodities and distribution-cost grants for
TEFAP and soup kitchen-food bank programs through FY2002. But, more
importantly, the subsequent 1996 welfare reform law (the Personal Responsibility and
Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act; P.L. 104-193) changed how these federal
efforts are structured and funded. The welfare reform law (1) consolidated TEFAP
and the soup kitchen-food bank program in one statute (the EFA) so that states now
There also were some small federal commodity-handling costs that were covered in the
regular budgets for agencies dealing with the commodities (e.g., the CCC).
Note: The program is still referred to as TEFAP — i.e., The Emergency Food Assistance
get a single TEFAP grant of commodities and distribution-cost funds for all types of
emergency feeding organizations and (2) mandated funding of $100 million a year
(through FY2002) to purchase food commodities for the program (in addition to any
commodities that might be bought with money appropriated under discretionary
authority in the EFA and any bonus commodities that might be made available at the
Agriculture Department’s discretion). This second change was intended to entitle the
program to a minimum level of commodity support when regularly appropriated
money is not made available to buy commodities or excess federal commodity
holdings for TEFAP distribution are minimal or non-existent. It was accomplished
through an amendment to the Food Stamp Act effectively setting aside $100 million
a year in “entitlement” appropriations under the Act to purchase TEFAP
commodities. As a result, the majority of funding for TEFAP (i.e., for commodity
purchases) typically is now made available under the aegis of the Food Stamp Act
appropriation — unless Congress chooses to appropriate additional money for
commodities under authority provided in the EFA (which it did in FY1997). The
minority of funding, money for distribution cost grants, is appropriated under the
authority of the EFA.
Legislative and Funding Authorities. Since 1996, TEFAP (including
assistance for soup kitchens, food banks, and other organizations serving meals to the
homeless) has been run under the legislative authority contained in the EFA, as
amended. It sets the minimal federal rules that govern program operations. However,
funding provisions for TEFAP are more complicated. The EFA specifically
authorizes appropriations to cover cash grants to help with non-federal direct and
indirect distribution costs of states and local recipient agencies (up to $50 million a
year through FY2002); it also provides general authority for the purchase of
commodities, above the level provided under the Food Stamp Act appropriation
(noted above) or any bonus commodities, if money is appropriated. While money for
both commodity purchases and distribution-cost grants was appropriated under EFA
authority in FY1997, it was used only to appropriate money for distribution-cost
grants in FY1998 and FY1999. On the other hand, Section 27 of the Food Stamp Act
requires the Secretary of Agriculture to use $100 million a year of funds made
available under the Act to purchase food commodities for TEFAP.3 This requirement
is in addition to commodities purchased out of any funds appropriated under EFA
authority or any bonus commodities that might be made available at the Agriculture
Department’s discretion. However, it should be noted that supplemental
appropriations legislation for FY1997 lowered this $100 million “entitlement” to $80
million, the FY1999 appropriations law decreased it to $90 million, and the FY2000
appropriations law dropped it to $98 million.
History of Federal Support.4 As noted earlier, through FY1988, federal
support for TEFAP consisted mainly of bonus commodities acquired and donated at
It should be noted that, in the years since this set-aside was enacted, food stamp
appropriations have been well above the amount needed to operate the Food Stamp program,
and they have taken into account the TEFAP set-aside. As a result, the $100 million set-aside
has not affected food stamp benefits.
The following discussion covers support for both TEFAP and the program for soup kitchens
and food banks created in 1988 and later merged with TEFAP.
the Agriculture Department’s discretion. The dollar value of these commodities was
much larger than what is now provided under the program. The value of bonus foods
ranged from a high of slightly more than $1 billion in FY1984 to a low of $537 million
in FY1988. In addition, Congress typically appropriated $50 million a year for grants
to assist with distribution costs.
Beginning with FY1989, the value of discretionary bonus foods dropped
substantially as federal acquisitions/stocks waned, and the majority of the
commodities made available for TEFAP came to be made up of commodities
purchased specifically for the program. From FY1989 through FY1994, commodity
purchases ranged from $119 million (FY1994) to $160 million (FY1989 and
FY1993), while annual value of bonus commodities went from a high of $135 million
(FY1989) to a low of $48 million in FY1994. Appropriations for distribution-cost
grants dropped somewhat during this period, to $40 million by FY1994. Federal
support was lowest in FY1995 and FY1996 — commodity purchases were $65
million and $49 million; bonus foods were valued at $35 million and $14 million; and
distribution-cost grants totaled $40 million and $31 million.
Since FY1996, federal support (spurred by enactment of the set-aside of Food
Stamp Act funds for TEFAP) has grown noticeably, but it has not returned to the
levels reached in the 1980s or early 1990s. Commodity purchases went to $130
million in FY1997 and $100 million in FY1998, but dropped to $90 million in FY1999
and then increased to $99 million in FY2000. The value of bonus commodity
acquisitions increased to $30 million in FY1997, $109 million in FY1998, $107
million in FY1999, and $162 million in FY2000. And spending for distribution-cost
grants was $42 million in FY1997, $46 million in FY1998 and FY1999, and $44
million in FY2000.5
Table 1 provides details on federal support for TEFAP over the years, including
the amounts included in the FY2001 Agriculture appropriations law, P.L. 106-387.
Current Status of Federal Support
FY1999. For FY1999, the Clinton Administration proposed using the full $100
million provided under the Food Stamp Act to fund TEFAP commodity purchases,
plus a $45 million appropriation for distribution-cost grants; no additional
appropriations were proposed for food purchases. Congress, however, chose to
provide less than requested. The House version of the FY1999 Agriculture
Department appropriations measure reduced the $100 million Food Stamp Act
TEFAP “entitlement” to $90 million, and the Senate version lowered it to $80 million;
both appropriated the full $45 million requested for distribution costs (still below the
authorized $50 million).
These figures for distribution-cost grants are actual expenditures from amounts made
available under annual appropriations. They differ slightly from the appropriations
themselves (e.g., the distribution-cost appropriation for FY1998, FY1999, and FY2000 was
$45 million a year) because they reflect the reallocation of unspent money and transfers of
distribution-cost funds to the purchase of commodities.
In the end, the FY1999 Agriculture Department appropriation (P.L. 105-227)
provided $90 million in Food Stamp Act money for commodity purchases and $45
million in direct appropriations for distribution costs.6 TEFAP also was allocated 111
million pounds in discretionary bonus commodity acquisitions valued at $107.5
million in FY1999, roughly the same as in FY1998.
While about $197 million worth of commodities were acquired for TEFAP
(purchased with the Food Stamp Act set-aside or allocated as bonus commodities) in
FY1999, actual deliveries during the year were higher – totaling $225.6 million
($90.4 million in Food Stamp Act “entitlement” commodities and $135.2 million in
FY2000. For FY2000, the Clinton Administration again proposed using the full
$100 million provided under the Food Stamp Act to pay for TEFAP commodity
purchases, as well as an appropriation of $45 million to fund grants for distribution
costs ($5 million less than authorized).
On June 8, the House adopted its version of the FY2000 Agriculture Department
appropriations measure (H.R. 1906; H.Rept. 106-157). This bill made available $99
million of the $100 million Food Stamp Act set-aside for TEFAP purchases and
appropriated the requested $45 million for distribution-cost grants. On August 4,
1999, the Senate approved its version of the FY2000 Agriculture Department
appropriation (S. 1233/H.R. 1906; S.Rept. 106-80). The Senate’s bill made $97
million of the $100 million Food Stamp Act set-aside available for TEFAP purchases
and, like the House measure, appropriated the requested $45 million for distributioncost grants.
On September 30, 1999, House-Senate conferees on the FY2000 Agriculture
Department appropriations measure reported their agreement (H.Rept. 106-354).
The conference agreement made $98 million of the $100 million Food Stamp Act setaside available for TEFAP food purchases and appropriated $45 million for
distribution-cost grants.7 The House approved the conference report on October 1,
1999, and the Senate adopted it on October 13, 1999. On October 22, 1999, the
House-Senate agreement was enacted as P.L. 106-78.8 Additional FY2000 federal
Actual FY1999 spending on distribution costs was $45.8 million, including amounts
recovered from prior year obligations.
Under the House and Senate FY2000 appropriations bills, the House-Senate conference
agreement, and the enacted FY2000 appropriations measure, an amount equal to the
difference between the bills’ funding for TEFAP purchases and the full $100 million called
for under the Food Stamp Act set-aside was effectively appropriated to fund Bill Emerson/
Mickey Leland Hunger Fellowships through the Congressional Hunger Center. The House
bill funded the fellowships at $1 million. The Senate provided $3 million. And the conference
agreement and enacted law appropriated $2 million for the fellowships, leaving $98 million
for TEFAP food purchases.
The FY2000 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-113) directed reductions of .38%
in agencies’ discretionary funds. EFAP-related discretionary spending (e.g., the $45 million
for distribution-cost grants in the FY2000 appropriation) was not affected by this directive.
support in the form of bonus commodities acquired for TEFAP was $162 million, well
above the FY1999 level of $107.5 million.
While approximately $260 million worth of commodities were acquired for
TEFAP (bought with the Food Stamp Act set-aside or allocated as bonus
commodities) in FY2000, actual deliveries during the year were lower – totaling
about $176 million ($84 million in Food Stamp Act “entitlement” commodities and
$92 million in bonus commodities).
FY2001. For FY2001, the Clinton Administration’s budget proposed using the
full $100 million provided under the Food Stamp Act to pay for TEFAP commodity
purchases, as well as an appropriation of $45 million to fund grants to states for
In mid-May 2000, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees reported
their versions of the FY2001 Agriculture Department appropriations measure – H.R.
4461 (H.Rept. 106-619); S. 2536 (S.Rept. 106-288). The amounts included for
TEFAP agreed with the Administration’s request – i.e., use of the full $100 million
Food Stamp Act set-aside for “entitlement” commodity purchases and an
appropriation of $45 million for distribution costs. On July 11, 2000, the House
passed its version of the FY2001 Agriculture appropriations bill, and, on July 20,
2000, the Senate approved its version. The House and Senate versions, as well as the
House-Senate conference agreement on the FY2001 appropriations measure reported
on October 6, 2000 (H.Rept. 106-948), were the same as the Administration’s request
regarding TEFAP. The House-Senate agreement was approved by the House on
October 11, 2000, and by the Senate on October 18, 2000. On October 28, 2000, the
congressional agreement on the FY2001 Agriculture Department appropriation was
enacted as P.L. 106-387.
The full extent of bonus commodity acquisitions and deliveries under TEFAP in
FY2001 will be unclear until the fall of 2001. However, it is likely that FY2001
acquisitions and deliveries will run well ahead of FY2000 given TEFAP’s access to
some of the $200 million in surplus specialty crops to be purchased under the
authority of the Agriculture Risk Protection Act (P.L. 106-224),9 the slight increase
in the Food Stamp Act set-aside for the TEFAP, the extensive acquisition of bonus
commodities in the last part of FY2000, and the lessening of incentives to provide
bonus commodities to school meal programs brought on by new, separately financed
commodity purchases for schools required under the Agriculture Risk Protection Act
(see the discussion of issues and proposals later in this report). For the first 8 months
of FY2001, food acquisitions and deliveries for TEFAP are estimated to be running
at least 50% ahead of FY2000.
FY2002. For FY2002, the Bush Administration’s budget proposed using the
full $100 million provided under the Food Stamp Act for TEFAP food acquisitions,
as well as an appropriation of $45 million to fund distribution costs.
Section 203(d) of the Agriculture Risk Protection Act requires surplus commodity purchases
of specialty crops that experienced low prices during the 1998 and 1999 crop years, including
apples, black-eyed peas, cherries, citrus, cranberries, onions, melons, peaches, and potatoes.
On July 11, 2001, the House approved its version of the FY2002 Agriculture
Department appropriations measure – H.R. 2330 (H.Rept. 107-116). It agrees with
the Administration’s request to use all of the $100 million Food Stamp Act set-aside
for TEFAP and increases the appropriation for distribution costs to $50 million (the
full amount authorized to be appropriated for this under the Emergency Food
On July 18, 2001, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported its version of
the FY2002 Agriculture Department appropriations bill – S. 1191 (S.Rept. 107-41).
It also agrees to using all of the $100 million food stamp set-aside for TEFAP, but
does not increase funding for distribution costs.
Table 1. EFAP/TEFAP, Soup Kitchens & Food Banks:
Value of Commodities and Distribution-cost Grants
($ in millions)
EFAP/TEFAP, soup kitchens, and food banks
Sources: U.S. Agriculture Department explanatory notes accompanying Administration budget
requests for selected years.
Value of food commodities purchased with appropriated funds or money set aside under the Food
Stamp Act. In recent years, includes a small amount (e.g., $800,000 in FY2000, $700,000
in FY1999, $400,000 in FY1998, $100,000 in FY1997) for some federal administrative
costs related to TEFAP food acquisitions. The value of purchased (“entitlement”)
commodities shown in this table does not necessarily correspond to the value of entitlement
food deliveries to states during the fiscal year.
Notes for this table are continued on the following page.
Value of bonus commodities acquired for donation through T EFAP or soup kitchens and food
banks at the Agriculture Department’s discretion. The value of actual bonus food deliveries
to states and local emergency feeding organizations during a fiscal year varies from these
figures, depending on the terms of acquisition contracts and federal, state, and local
delivery schedules. For example, the estimated value of bonus foods delivered in FY2000
was $92.1 million (96 million pounds), and, during FY1999, 161.4 million pounds of bonus
commodities worth $135.2 million were delivered.
State allocations from funds appropriated to help states and local emergency feeding organizations
to transport, store, and distribute commodities. In a number of years, figures include a
small amount (e.g., $800,000 in FY1999) spent from recoveries of unused prior year
obligations or reflect a reduction because states chose to use some distribution cost money
for food purchases (e.g., $1.7 million in FY2000). As a result, these figures may differ
from the annual appropriation (e.g., the distribution cost appropriation for FY 2000 was
Includes a one-time purchase of $42.3 million worth of commodities under P.L. 102-552.
Includes $1.7 million for food purchases transferred from funds available for supporting
As approved in the FY2001 Agriculture Department appropriations law, P.L. 106-387.
Totals do not reflect the extent to which bonus commodities will be made available, including those
purchased under authority provided in the Agriculture Risk Protection Act (P.L. 106-224).
Early estimates indicate that the value of these extra commodities in FY2001 is likely to be
significantly greater than the figure shown in this table for FY2000.
Under TEFAP, food commodities (either specifically purchased for the
program or otherwise acquired for federal commodity stocks through initiatives
supporting the agricultural economy) are provided to states for allocation to local
emergency feeding organizations serving needy individuals and families, including the
homeless. A wide range of commodities (roughly three dozen types of food) are
offered under the program; they can include items like peanut butter, juices, dried
beans, cereals, rice, vegetable oil, flour, pasta, soup mixes, nuts, dairy products, and
canned/frozen fruits, applesauce, vegetables, meats, and fish — depending on
agricultural market conditions, program providers’ preferences, and the need to
provide a variety of foods. The federal government is responsible for TEFAP
commodities until they reach the state food distribution agency and pays some basic
costs associated with processing (e.g., repackaging) and delivering the commodities
to state receiving points. TEFAP assistance also includes cash grants to help pay for
state and local distribution costs (e.g., storage, processing, transportation expenses).
This distribution-cost aid can be used for both federally and privately donated foods
handled by TEFAP agencies. Commodities and distribution-cost funding are allocated
to states based on a formula that takes into account unemployment rates and the
number of persons with income below federal poverty guidelines (distribution-cost
funding depends on the amount of commodities a state receives).
Federal administration of TEFAP is the responsibility of the Agriculture
Department’s Food and Nutrition Service, in close collaboration with other
Department agencies dealing with commodity acquisition, storage, and distribution
(e.g., the CCC, the Agricultural Marketing Service).
Federal rules governing TEFAP are minimal. Each state is responsible for
designating a state administering agency and, through this agency, selecting local
organizations of their choice (e.g., private nonprofit organizations, volunteer groups,
religious organizations, government agencies) for participation in the program as
emergency feeding organizations (providers). States also are in charge of allocating
commodities and distribution-cost funding among the approved providers and
establishing eligibility criteria for needy individuals seeking aid. These eligibility
standards must limit participation based on low income (as defined by the state) and
may consist of specific income cut-offs, proof of eligibility for a means-tested public
assistance program, or other criteria.
State grants for distribution costs (at least 40% of the grant) must be shared
with local providers, but the portion retained by the state has to be matched dollarfor-dollar in cash or in kind. Distribution-cost grant money is to be used to assist with
direct and indirect costs incurred in distributing commodities provided by TEFAP and
those coming from voluntary donors; it also may be used to help support soup
kitchens, food banks, and other organizations serving meals to the homeless that
receive TEFAP commodities and to support food recovery initiatives (e.g., “gleaning”
efforts). In addition, states may elect to convert distribution-cost funds (1) to money
for food (these converted dollars are then used by the Agriculture Department to buy
additional commodities) and (2) to support food rescue efforts like gleaning. Finally,
states have responsibility for allocating commodities and cash assistance between
providers that distribute food directly to needy clients and those that provide meals
(e.g., for the homeless) at congregate feeding sites, and they may choose to
concentrate support on only one of these provider groups.
Client participation data for TEFAP are not available, although related
information about emergency food assistance is presented in a July 2001 report by the
Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service – The Decline in Food Stamp
Participation: A Report to Congress – available at the Agriculture Department’s
Issues and Legislation
The Debate. The current debate over TEFAP has focused primarily on
whether, how, and how much to increase federal commodity donations – as well as
how much indications of “need” justify an expansion. But most recently, supporters
of TEFAP have argued that expanded support for the cost of distributing food
handled by TEFAP agencies – whether federally or privately donated – may be the
most pressing need; and current legislative and appropriations initiatives reflect this.
They note that there are increasing signs that TEFAP agencies need help with the cost
of handling growing non-government donations.
In addition, funding authorizations for TEFAP (in the Food Stamp Act and the
Emergency Food Assistance Act) expire with FY2002. They are scheduled for
reauthorization during the 107th Congress as part of the omnibus farm bill.
Supporters of TEFAP see it as an inexpensive way to assist those with shortterm food needs who “fall between the cracks” — in other words, a “safety net” for
those needy individuals and households who do not participate in other food aid
programs (for whatever reason) or whose benefits do not fully meet their needs (e.g.,
their food stamps and whatever amount of cash they can pay for food out of their own
income do not last out the month). Moreover, TEFAP is defended as a key
component of the network of public and private efforts that attempts to meet the food
needs of the poor. In this view, federally provided commodities and distribution-cost
grants help “leverage” assistance from other sources and give support to an
infrastructure on which private efforts to feed the needy can build to make their
contributions more effective. Federal assistance through TEFAP also helps increase
variety in the food items offered by emergency feeding organizations.
Further backing for an expanded TEFAP comes from those concerned over
what they feel is an increased need for TEFAP-like aid. They are worried about
accumulating evidence of the negative effects of changes made by the 1996 welfare
reform law — e.g., ending many benefits for a large number of noncitizens, more
restrictive eligibility standards for public assistance, a trend toward discouraging
(“diverting”) needy people from applying for public aid that spills over to diversion
from applying for food stamp help for which they may be eligible, burdensome
application requirements for food stamps. Specifically, supporters point to the
dramatic and not completely understood decline in food stamp participation
(noticeably larger than the fall in the poor population) in recent years — e.g., food
stamp participation has dropped from a monthly average of 25.5 million persons in
FY1996 to 17.2 million people in the most recent month for which comprehensive
numbers are available (April 2001). They are concerned over the corresponding rise
in demand at emergency feeding organizations.10 Finally, support for TEFAP is seen
as a way of helping the agricultural economy and maintaining farm support for food
assistance programs; e.g., farmers get a larger share of the benefits provided by
TEFAP than from other food assistance programs.
In rebuttal to critics, supporters of a TEFAP expansion point out that the
federal government should not wait until there is additional evidence of widespread
need that satisfies those who are now reluctant to add to federal support for TEFAP
and note that significant information now available points to the need to act. Private
donations, they maintain, cannot reasonably be expected to fully cover the gap
between need and the amount of food now available for distribution to the needy.
Moreover, they argue that larger bonus commodity donations cannot consistently be
relied on to obviate the need for increased money for direct purchases for TEFAP and
help with the costs of distributing federally and privately donated commodities.
However, some are hesitant to increase direct federal support (appropriations
for food purchases and distribution costs) for TEFAP. They view it as a relatively
inefficient way of delivering small amounts of food to the needy, especially when
compared with other food assistance programs such as food stamps, school meal
programs, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and
Children (the WIC program) that are available on a regular basis to millions of lower-
A study of the reasons for the decline in food stamp participation and the rise in demand for
emergency food assistance was released in mid-July 2001. The report, entitled The Decline
in Food Stamp Participation: A Report to Congress, is available at the Agriculture
Department’s website: [http://www.fns.usda.gov].
income persons. More importantly, they argue that (1) the cost of increasing federally
donated commodities and cash grants will have to come out of other, perhaps more
deserving, programs’ appropriations (given federal budget constraints), (2) the case
for increased need has not, for them, been made to the extent that would warrant a
major increase in TEFAP money, and (3) larger bonus commodity donations,
increased private donations, and expanded “gleaning” efforts may fill in much of the
perceived supply-demand gap.
In a related area, TEFAP supporters have been concerned over the potential
effects of a recent change in child nutrition law. It directs that “bonus” commodities
acquired to support the agricultural economy and donated to the School Lunch
program be counted in meeting a requirement that 12% of all federal assistance for
school lunches be in the form of commodities. They fear that this provides a possible
incentive to donate bonus commodities to schools rather than TEFAP because it
relieves the Agriculture Department of the burden of purchasing extra commodities
with annual appropriations to meet the requirement (as called for in previous law).
The Agriculture Risk Protection Act (P.L. 106-224; enacted June 20, 2000) alleviates
this situation temporarily. It requires extra commodity purchases for schools and
suspends the rule counting bonus commodities toward the 12% school lunch
commodity requirement through FY2001.11
Legislation. Four measures in the 107th Congress directly affect TEFAP.
One, which has been enacted, directs additional spending for commodity distribution
costs. A second — the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the omnibus farm
bill — reauthorizes and increases funding for TEFAP. A third would transfer unused
Food Stamp program funds to TEFAP. And the fourth would authorize the
appropriation of extra money for the program.
! P.L. 107-25 – an emergency economic assistance measure for agricultural
producers. This law, adopted by the House and Senate as H.R. 2213 (H.Rept.
107-111) passed the House on June 16, 2001, was approved by the Senate,
without change, on August 3, 2001, and was enacted August 13, 2001. [Note:
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee’s version of this
measure (S. 1246) was not passed by the Senate. It contained the same
TEFAP-related provisions as the House bill]. P.L. 107-25 directs the
Agriculture Department to use $10 million of funds available to the
Commodity Credit Corporation to make grants to states covering direct and
indirect costs related to the processing, transportation, and distribution of
federally and privately donated commodities handled by TEFAP recipient
agencies. It also includes spending for new purchases of agricultural
commodities, which may result in added donations to TEFAP.
! H.R. 2646 – the Agricultural Act of 2001. This measure, the omnibus “farm
bill” reported by the House Agriculture Committee on August 2, 2001
(H.Rept. 107-191, Part I), reauthorizes the Food Stamp Act set-aside for
Note: Provisions in S. 1246, an emergency agricultural assistance measure reported by the
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, but not approved by the full Senate,
would have extended this suspension by one year – through FY2002.
TEFAP through FY2011 and increases the set-aside amount to $140 million
a year (of which $10 million is earmarked as new money for distribution
expenses). It also reauthorizes separate regular appropriations for distribution
costs (up to $50 million a year) under the Emergency Food Assistance Act.
! H.R. 2185, entitled the Emergency Food Assistance Program Enhancement
Act, would require that up to $40 million a year in unused funding for
employment and training activities under the Food Stamp program be used to
purchase and distribute food commodities under TEFAP.12 As much as $10
million of this could be used for processing, storage, transportation, and
distribution expenses. [Note: The added funding for TEFAP and the earmark
for distribution costs in this bill have been incorporated in the House
Agriculture Committee’s omnibus farm bill, H.R. 2646, noted above.]
! Provisions included in S. 583/H.R. 2142 and S. 940/H.R. 1990 (Section
8/Section 6109) authorize the appropriation of an additional $20 million a year
(through FY2006) for TEFAP commodities and distribution costs; at least
50% would have to be used for distribution costs. [Note: The TEFAP
provisions of these bills have effectively been incorporated in the House
Agriculture Committee’s omnibus farm bill, H.R. 2646, noted above.]
Separately, two other bills – S. 37/H.R. 990 (the Good Samaritan Hunger
Relief Tax Incentive Act) and a similar measure, S. 810 (the Feeding Needy Families
Act) – would indirectly affect TEFAP by making changes in the federal tax code to
encourage increased business donations of food to food banks and other outlets for
distribution to the needy. They would expand the availability of tax deductions for
charitable donations of food inventory and increase the value of the deduction for
some donors. This could lessen pressure on the federal TEFAP program to acquire
and provide additional commodities. On July 19, 2001, the House approved H.R. 7
(the Community Solutions Act of 2001). Provisions of Title I of this bill include tax
code revisions comparable to those advanced in S. 37/H.R. 990 and S. 810.
H.R. 76 (the Mickey Leland Hunger Relief Stamp Act) would transfer half the
extra money collected from sales of a special, higher-priced first-class postage stamp
to TEFAP (the other half would go to the Africa Food Security Initiative).
In addition to the above-noted legislative proposals, H.R. 2330, the House
version of the FY2002 Agriculture Department appropriations measure (see earlier
discussion of the current status of federal support), would appropriate extra money
Under the Food Stamp Act, federal funds are set aside for states’ use in employment and
training programs for food stamp recipients. Because of economic conditions in recent years
and restrictions placed on this money (e.g., much of it is reserved for programs for able-bodied
adults without dependents), a significant portion of these funds go unused. If unused, they can
be reallocated to states that need them. But unreallocated funds accrue for use in later years
(they are not returned to the federal treasury). Unused employment and training money
accrued for the future now stands at well over $200 million. Supporters of allowing this
accrual to continue argue that the money should be “saved” for use when economic conditions
worsen and the need for employment and training efforts increases.
for TEFAP agencies’ distributions costs – $5 million above the $45 million a year
typically appropriated in recent years and equal to the full authorized level of funding.
Emergency Feeding Needs
Participation in the Food Stamp and other major public assistance programs
has declined dramatically in recent years. Food stamp enrollment and participation
in cash aid programs under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block
grants have dropped precipitously from their peaks in the spring of 1994: recipients
of food stamps have decreased by over one-third, from 28 million persons to about
17 million people; TANF caseloads have decreased by at least half. While these sharp
reductions have in part been due to the success of welfare reform efforts and an
improved economy, separate measures such as the proportion of persons and families
with income below federal poverty income thresholds (and presumably still needing
some assistance) show more modest declines and suggest to some advocates that
“need” has not decreased as dramatically as it would appear. For example, the overall
poverty rate decreased by 12% from 1994 to 1998, considerably less than the drop
in public assistance rolls. Those supporting EFAP expansion (and loosened eligibility
rules for food stamps) point to these differing trends (along with their own
experiences) and maintain that there is still a substantial need for emergency feeding
efforts. In their view, many poor normally served by traditional public assistance need
help because they are excluded by new and stricter rules, such as those barring
noncitizens and time-limiting benefits, or simply discouraged from applying.
Historically, there has been only limited data on which to base policy decisions
as to the need for emergency feeding efforts. This dearth of information has not
changed recently. However, several recent reports provide some evidence of the
extent of food insecurity and the use of emergency feeding assistance.
Second Harvest — Hunger 1997: The Face and Facts. This Second
Harvest (SH) national report is based on mail surveys that were distributed to 25,319
SH agencies (of which 11,240 responded) and personal interviews conducted with
27,771 clients at 3,476 SH agencies. SH is a national network of food banks based
in Chicago, Illinois. Of the clients surveyed 40.7% were receiving food stamps, but
78.7% reported that their food stamps did not last the entire month. More than 78%
of the clients on food assistance programs who were interviewed had no resources for
food other than that received from the SH agency or government food programs. In
the households that were interviewed, about 28% of adults and more than 9% of
children were reported to have missed meals in the past month because of a lack of
food or resources to buy food. About one-third of SH agency clients have received
assistance from SH agencies for more than a year, with the average time for all
clients’ use being 33.5 weeks.
This report represents the SH national food bank network, which consists of
186 food banks that provide donated food and grocery products to nearly 26 million
needy individuals annually. The organization gives food to 46,295 SH agencies that
operate 94,093 local programs. These programs served a total of 25,786,357
individuals (an unduplicated count), including 21,440,079 persons served by
emergency food programs (e.g., pantries, kitchens, shelters). The SH agencies
reported that 45.2% of their food programs had to stretch food supplies in the last
year, and 13% of all SH agencies had to do so as often as once a month. SH agencies
reported needing an additional 2,217,685 pounds of food per week; this projects to
an estimated need for an additional 115,319,642 pounds per year by the reporting
agencies, or an added 965,137,864 pounds per year needed by the entire SH
network.13 In addition to greater food volume, three-quarters of the respondents
reported needing an adequate variety of food products to distribute.
U.S. Department of Agriculture — Household Food Security in the
United States, 1999.14 In 1995, the Census Bureau began collecting data for the
food security supplement (requested by USDA) as part of its regular Current
Population Survey (CPS). Interviews are conducted with 45,000 households to
measure food insecurity and hunger in a nationally representative sample of U.S.
households. The results of the 18-item scale used are classified into four categories:
food secure, food insecure without hunger, food insecure with moderate hunger, and
food insecure with severe hunger. The questions seek to provide insight into several
types of household food conditions:
! anxiety that the household food budget or food supply may be insufficient to
meet basic needs;
! perceptions that food eaten by household members was inadequate in quality
! reported instances of reduced food intake or consequences of reduced food
intake for adults and/or children in the household; and
! coping actions taken by households to augment their food budget or food
Preliminary estimates indicate that 89.9% of American households were food
secure in 1999, up 0.6% from 1995. However, 31 million Americans were food
insecure, meaning that they did not have assured access to enough food for an active
health life at all times. For 3% of all households, at least one household member was
hungry at least sometime during the year due to inadequate resources. For the period
of 1995 to1999, the number of food-insecure households fell by 12%, and the number
with hunger due to inadequate resources fell by 24%. Among the subgroups studies,
only households with incomes between 50% and 130% of the poverty line showed a
higher rate of food insecurity in 1999 compared to 1995.
These data provide only relative aggregate information on the extent of food
insecurity in the United States in the 5 year that the data has been collected and
analyzed to date, with no details of the underlying causes. Comparison of data for the
5 years analyzed shows a trend of improving food security through 1997, a slight
increase in food insecurity and hunger in 1998, and an improvement in food security
in 1999. Work is currently underway to develop a more accurate measure of
children’s hunger from the CPS data.
For comparison, the EFAP provided some 318 million pounds of food in FY1997 and about
358 million pounds in FY1998.
Prepared by Margaret Andrews and Mark Nord, USDA Economic Research Service; and
Gary Bickel and Steven Carlson, USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Fall 2000.
U.S. Conference of Mayors — A Status Report on Hunger and
Homelessness in America’s Cities: 2000. To assess the status of hunger and
homelessness in America’s cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors annually surveys
cities whose mayors are members of its Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.
This 25-city survey issued in December 2000 sought information and estimates from
each city on (1) the demand for emergency assistance and shelter, and the capacity of
local agencies to meet the demand, (2) the causes of hunger and homelessness, and
the demographics of the population experiencing these problems, (3) exemplary
programs or efforts in the cities to respond to hunger and homelessness, (4) the
availability of affordable housing for low-income individuals, and (5) the outlook for
the future and the impact of the economy on hunger and homelessness.
Among the 25 cities surveyed, estimates were that the request for emergency
food assistance had increased by an average of 17% in 2000 (over 1999), with 83%
of the cities reporting an increase, which was the highest rate of increase since 1992.
Requests for food aid by families with children rose an average of 16%, the highest
rate of increase since 1991. Requests for emergency food assistance by elderly
individuals increased an average of 9% during 2000, with 75% of the cities reporting
an increase. On average, 13% of the requests for emergency food assistance were
estimated to have gone unmet during the last year. In 46% of the cities, emergency
food assistance facilities were estimated to have turned away individuals in need due
to lack of resources. For families alone, 13% of the requests for assistance are
estimated to have gone unmet. Of the individuals requesting emergency food
assistance, 62% were members of families: children and their parents; and 32% were
The overall level of resources available to emergency food assistance facilities
was reported to have increased by 16% during the past year, and of the cities
surveyed, 52% reported that emergency food assistance facilities were able to provide
an adequate quantity of food. And 52% of the surveyed cities reported that the food
provided was nutritionally balanced. Some 76% of the cities’ emergency food
assistance facilities reported having to decrease the number of bags of food provided
and/or the number of times individuals could receive food. In 100%of the cities
included in the survey, emergency food assistance facilities were relied on by families
and individuals both in emergency situations and as a steady source of foods over long
periods of time. Low paying jobs lead the list of causes of hunger, followed by high
housing costs, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, food stamp cuts, utility
costs, the costs and unavailability of transportation and welfare reform.
In 71% of the cities, officials predicted requests for emergency food assistance
would increase during 2001. About 65% expect that requests for emergency food
assistance by families with children will increase during 2001. City officials continue
to have mixed views on the effect that the current economy is having on hunger, with
some officials seeing little or no impact, while others see a strong economy leading
to improved conditions. Still others believe that the strong economy makes matters
worse, especially with regard to increased housing costs that will lead to a lack of
The Decline in Food Stamp Participation: A Report to Congress.
This July 2001 report is primarily a review of the components and demographics of
the reduction in food stamp program participation and the implications of
nonparticipation for low-income families. In addition, it contains an Economic
Research Service review of the recent demand for emergency food assistance based
on the first comprehensive national survey of the providers of this assistance. A key
survey finding was that the local emergency food providers have varied program
structures and innovative practices allowing them to meet the specific needs of their
communities, but are only about one-tenth the size of the major federal nutrition
programs. The reported demand for food assistance at soup kitchens and food
pantries has increased 4%-5% per year since 1997. Most providers in the emergency
food assistance system are meeting current demand for their services, and the majority
of providers felt they could cope with an increase of 10 %. However, other providers
reported either being unable to meet immediate needs or perceiving other services that
they could offer their clients. While the relationship between falling food stamp
participation and increases in demand for emergency food assistance remains unclear,
public and private food assistance programs appear to complement each other in
meeting client needs.