The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and
The State Food Purchase Program (SFPP)
Suggestions for Advocacy
The TEFAP and SFPP
programs are invaluable assets to charitable food
distribution in Pennsylvania. Let your federal and
state legislators know that they are important to
Pennsylvanians in need and that you appreciate their
support for these programs.
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
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
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
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.