The cost of groceries is an expense that all families deal with. Unfortunately, this can be a struggle for those that are experiencing financial hardship. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are “more than 34 million people, including 9 million children” that are facing food insecurity. To combat this the government created assistance options like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
To run this program, state distributing agencies receive food and funds from the USDA. States are responsible for operating TEFAP. Local agencies like food banks and Indian Tribal Organizations benefit communities directly by providing food to local establishments. Community action agencies also get resources in order to directly serve eligible households. There is not a predetermined amount of resources that each state will receive for TEFAP. Instead, factors such as the unemployment rate are taken into consideration to determine how much food a state gets.
The food that the USDA provides is nutrient-rich and of good quality. This is important to know because this assistance program provides nutritional support to low-income individuals of different ages, including the elderly. The best part is that emergency assistance comes at no cost to the recipient. Communities can benefit directly from TEFAP by going to places like soup kitchens and food pantries.
Different Opportunities for Food Assistance
Dealing with a lack of food can be a major problem for many American households. For that reason, TEFAP isn’t the only form of food assistance that you can benefit from. There are more assistance programs that provide relief with the cost of food. Examples include:
- Special Milk Program (SMP)
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- School Breakfast Program (SBP)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Special Milk Program (SMP)
SMP offers free milk to children at schools and childcare centers. In order for a school to be able to run this program, they need to provide milk to children in Kindergarten programs or pre-k programs. The school also needs to meet other criteria. In addition to this, there are also requirements for a child to be able to get milk that SMP offers. It is important for children to drink milk at school. This is because it contains essential nutrients and can be a good source of vitamin D and calcium that promote healthy bones!
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
This meal assistance program dates all the way back to 1946 when President Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into effect! While school is in session, children can receive a nutritionally balanced lunch at no cost or a reduced cost to the qualifying parent(s). It is available to residential child care centers, as well as public and non-profit schools. For a family that is struggling financially, not worrying about one meal per day on school days can be a huge relief! NSLP is proudly able to help millions of children every school year.
School Breakfast Program (SBP)
This program is available thanks to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a federal agency. Congress decided that this program would operate permanently in 1975. Since then SBP has been able to help millions of children every year! This meal program is administered by state education agencies. In addition to that, local authorities of school food programs handle the program within their community. Similar to NSLP, it is available to residential childcare centers, public schools, and non-profit private schools. Schools that run the program receive reimbursements for the breakfast that they provide to students.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
This nutritional assistance program is meant for postpartum and pregnant women, as well as children younger than 5 and infants. Postpartum means women who have already had children! This program provides assistance to at risk groups through nutrition education, supplemental food assistance, and referrals for health care services. WIC is able to provide this by distributing grants to state governments that run the program.
Eligibility Requirements for WIC
Simply falling under one of the categories listed above won’t automatically qualify you for benefits through WIC. There are additional requirements that need to be met in order to be eligible. WIC looks at other factors such as:
- Income level
- Level of nutritional risk
- Which category do you fit into
- Where you live
WIC can only provide assistance to a limited number of people at one time. Even if you qualify for assistance, there may be a waiting list. Not only that, the program uses a priority System. Meaning that those who need assistance the most will be moved to the front of the line. Once you do receive assistance with WIC, benefits don’t last forever. Each recipient gets a certification period which is how long they can receive benefits for.
Due to the fact that the program is operated at the state level, they determine the exact eligibility requirements. Your WIC state agency is where you will go to apply and to get any questions that you have answered.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP assists households that are in need of assistance with the cost of food. Monthly benefits from SNAP can be used to purchase groceries at qualifying stores. Approved recipients of this program are given an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. These cards allow recipients to be able to quickly and easily access their monthly benefits. Unfortunately recipients can’t purchase all food items with SNAP. Items that cannot be purchased include:
- Non-food items such as personal hygiene products
- Vitamins and supplements
- Tobacco products such as cigarettes
- Alcoholic beverages
- Live animals (with exceptions)
However, the good news is that there are plenty of food items that can be purchased with SNAP benefits. These items include:
- Produce such as fruit and vegetables
- Meat, poultry, and fish
- Nonalcoholic beverages
- Dairy products
- Snack foods
- Bread and other grains
- Plants or seeds that grow food for the household to eat
The Number of Benefits you Could Receive from SNAP
The exact amount of benefits that SNAP can provide to you is dependent on your personal situation. When determining what this amount will be for each applicant, a number of factors are considered. Examples include income level, as well as the number of members in a household. One important thing to note is that eligibility for this program varies by which state you live in. With that being said, SNAP has determined the maximum amount of benefits a family can potentially receive. The maximum amounts are based on the number of family members in the household:
- 1 person household can get a maximum of $281
- 2-person household can get a maximum of $516
- 3-person household can get a maximum of $740
- 4-person household can get a maximum of $939
- 5-person household can get a maximum of $1,116
- 6-persons household can get a maximum of $1,339
- 7-person household can get a maximum of $1,480
- 8-person household can get a maximum of $1,691
- Each person in a household greater than 8 can receive an additional $211
These numbers are up to date for October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023. With that in mind, they are subject to change and can vary in special circumstances. For example, certain states have larger maximums than other states!
There are numerous government programs that all have the goal of providing nutritional support to people in need. TEFAP is one program that provides assistance to those who are struggling to afford meals. It is important to remember that TEFAP doesn’t directly deliver resources to the community. Instead, they give funds and food to state agencies that then distribute it to local organizations. Local organizations like food pantries and soup kitchens directly feed the community. However, there are plenty of other government programs that provide assistance directly to qualifying households. Some examples include WIC, SNAP, NSLP, and more! Food insecurity is a major problem that tens of millions of Americans face. If you are in that situation, there may be a path to relief!