The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic situation has forced many businesses to shut down, causing a large number of Americans to go out of work. In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, the unemployment rate in April 2020 exceeded that of the Great Recession in almost all states of the country. This situation has had a direct impact on increasing food insecurity. Simply put, food insecurity refers to a situation where individuals do not have enough to eat due to lack of affordability. Therefore, it is very important to raise awareness about The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is a federal initiative to provide free of cost food to low-income Americans and senior citizens who may be retired or not physically fit to work.
How does the emergency food assistance program function?
The Emergency Food Assistance Program functions by purchasing high quality food products from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and distributing it amongst state agencies and local organizations to be made available to those deprived of this basic necessity in their respective areas. The quantity of food supplies provided to each state depend on its poverty level and unemployment rate. This is done to ensure that all eligible persons throughout the country can benefit from the right allocation of resources. Not only this, but TEFAP also provides each state with the administrative funds to cover the costs of storage and distribution process.
COVID-19 has also increased the burden on private non-profit organizations with National Public Radio (NPR) stating that:
“In communities across the country, the lines at food pantries are stretching longer and longer, and there’s no clear end in sight.”
Based on data from the Census Bureau survey conducted in October-November 2020, The Washington Post concluded that 1 out of 8 Americans (adults) were facing food deficiency, whereas the rate was even higher in families with children as naturally, the parents` first priority was to feed their kids.
Why awareness about the emergency food assistance program is important?
In view of the above situation, knowledge about TEFAP may also be helpful for private organizations and food banks. The government understands that alone, they might not be able to reach out to all the needy families and individuals. Therefore, it has defined a fair criterion for those who are eligible to benefit from the food assistance program. It includes the following:
- Public and private non-profit organizations that provide food either in the form of cooked meals or by distributing food supplies to deserving families.
- Families that can prove they meet the eligibility criteria may directly get food supplies through TEFAP to cook their meals at home.
The US Department of Agriculture also provides food assistance through other programs besides the Emergency Food Assistance Program that include programs for Child Nutrition and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). All these are administered by the Department of Agriculture at a federal level under their agency of Food and Nutrition Service. The basic purpose of USDA is to provide a buffer for nationals who are unable to manage their food expenses and to guide Americans regarding their dietary needs through research. The aim is to improve the health of all Americans and prevent malnutrition and hunger amongst the population.
Even though all programs under the Food and Nutrition service have their own significance, the impact of TEFAP is likely to be more beneficial as it meets individuals` and families` immediate needs when they might not have any other alternative on an urgent basis and this initiative of the American government must be appreciated.