The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
TEFAP is a federally-run program that assists low-income and elderly Americans by providing free nutritional assistance and emergency food. This program also provides States with administrative funds and food to further help its target recipients.
TEFAP Eligibility Requirements
TEFAP benefits often come in the form of allotments for home consumption. As you’ve probably guessed, your household needs to meet certain eligibility criteria, which vary by State, to qualify for these benefits. Typically, state governments want to ensure that only the most disadvantaged households receive assistance so that they may adjust income requirements accordingly. Consult your local TEFAP authorities to stay updated on the latest TEFAP requirements.
How TEFAP Benefits Work
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchases a variety of foods through TEFAP. The USDA then apportions the allotments to state distributing agencies. The amount allocated to each state depends on these factors:
Number of unemployed people within the state
Number of individuals with incomes below the State’s poverty level
Once a State has received its TEFAP allotment, it distributes the food to local agencies, including Indian Tribal Organizations along with other Native and Tribal entities. Among the agencies selected are food banks, which in turn distribute the food to other local organizations that directly serve the public, like soup kitchens and public food pantries.
However, the buck doesn’t stop here. Other organizations, like community action agencies, also receive food from the State’s allotment. Such agencies distribute the food directly to low-income households. You can see that the TEFAP benefit structure is truly a complex ecosystem, which facilitates nutritional assistance for low-income and elderly Americans at all levels of social organization.
If you’re in need of assistance, get in touch with your State distributing agency. Thankfully, you can use an online national map to find the relevant contact people within your State.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
WIC is a branch of SNAP that provides nutritional benefits specifically to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. This agency gives states Federal grants for nutrition education, health care referrals, and dietary supplements. Infants and children (5 years old and under) found to be at nutritional risk also receive these benefits.
WIC Eligibility Requirements
The easiest and most accurate way to find out if you are eligible to receive benefits is to use the online WIC Prescreening Tool.
To qualify for WIC benefits, you must meet all four eligibility requirements:
Remember that the Pre-screening Tool is just a way to establish whether or not you’re eligible to receive benefits. It does not mean you have applied for WIC. You’ll have to do that separately.
WIC Categorical Requirement
Those considered categorically eligible for WIC are:
Breastfeeding Women (until child’s 1st birthday)
Infants (until 1st birthday)
Children (until 5th birthday)
WIC Residential Requirement
You must apply from within the State in which you live. If you live in an area where WIC is administered by an Indian Tribal Organization (ITO), you have to meet the ITO’s residency requirements.
WIC Income Requirement
Your income level must be at or below your State’s set standard. Depending on your State’s regulations, and whether or not you already participate in certain programs (e.g., Medicaid, TANF, etc.), you may be deemed automatically income-eligible.
WIC Nutrition Risk Requirement
Only a health professional can determine your nutrition risk level. In other words, you’ll have to be seen by a physician, nurse, or nutritionist to determine your eligibility under this requirement. This appointment often takes place at a WIC clinic, and won’t cost you a dime. It isn’t mandatory to have your meeting with a health professional at a WIC clinic. If you consult a private physician, he or she can conduct the procedure.
You must make an appointment at your WIC local agency and schedule an appointment to apply for WIC benefits. Your contact person at the agency will advise you about what you should bring to the meeting to help demonstrate your eligibility.
Finding your local WIC agency is easy. Just use their search-by-State online tool.
Hard times can hit anyone, anywhere, anytime. There’s no shame in asking for help, especially when it comes to that universal need: the need to feed yourself. If you’re short on cash and high on hunger, you know what it is you have to do. The agencies we listed in this article were created to help you. Nutritional assistance is just a phone call away. Making that call or clicking that link could be the first step on your pathway towards a better future.