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Food & Nutrition Resources: A Reference Guide.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and The State Food Purchase Program (SFPP)

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Government distribution of surplus commodities (especially cheese) began in 1981. In 1988 Congress expanded the program and required the USDA to purchase additional commodities for low-income households and local emergency feeding organizations. The State Food Purchase Program was created at the height of the recession in 1983 as a complement to the federally funded TEFAP program. Now, it is the larger of the two programs.

TEFAP is high quality food, consisting of canned fruits, juices, beef and pork, instant milk, dry pasta and baking mix to name just a few things. It is stored in five distribution centers across the state, ready for counties to accept delivery. The counties then distribute the product to food pantries and soup kitchens. SFPP provides grants to be used by county governments or their designated "lead agencies" to purchase, process, repackage, transport or store food products, and to distribute that food to soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other charitable food programs.

Who can provide this service?

Churches, community groups, civic groups, and other non-profit organizations can distribute these foods. Interested programs should call the Lead Agency listed to find out how to begin receiving these commodities.

How is it financed?

The SFPP is a state-funded program to augment the foods available for distribution within the charitable food network. The SFPP is a line item in the state budget for $16.45 million.

TEFAP funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year $8 million is Pennsylvania’s share. In addition, Pennsylvania often receives substantial amounts of additional "bonus commodities" through the USDA’s price support programs.

Who can receive this service?

In Pennsylvania recipients must be below 150% of the poverty level to receive TEFAP and SFPP food. About 300,000 households receive food assistance from either SFPP or TEFAP each quarter.

What is provided?

A variety of nutritious foods including meat, poultry, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and grains are part of this program. Products include perishable, non-perishable, and frozen. Pantries distribute foods by the bag (a few days’ supply) at weekly distributions, or in boxes for less frequent distributions.


Charitable food programs that serve people up to 150% of the poverty level are chosen by the county’s lead agency. To identify the charitable food programs in your area, call the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center Food Information Line at 1-800-FOOD-997.


Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center
email: pahunger@paonline.com
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