This month’s USDA distribution included a bonus shipment of oranges in addition to typical items such as beans, macaroni, peaches, corn and roasted peanuts. Each household received a bag of fresh produce from Second Harvest along with their USDA package.
How Does The Emergency Food Assistance Program Work?
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a federal program that provides food at no cost to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief. Recipients include the elderly, children, working families, and the homeless.
Foodlink is the State Agency that manages TEFAP in California, distributing the food to qualifying emergency food organizations like Second Harvest, who distribute it directly to those in need. Food is delivered to Foodlink’s Sacramento headquarters where it is divided into shipments for individual counties in California.
Second Harvest combines TEFAP food with bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition to the mandatory food purchases, the USDA may provide surplus or “bonus” commodities, such as the aforementioned oranges. Bonus purchases are made at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture to effectively stabilize market prices for at-risk commodities and help boost farm income.
In addition to providing wholesome food to hungry people, TEFAP serves the agricultural community by using surplus commodities purchased by USDA from farmers and other producers. A 1994 USDA Economic Research Service report found that for every $1 USDA spends for TEFAP commodities, farmers and producers receive between 27 and 85 cents, one of the highest rates of farm return of any federal nutrition program.
Unfortunately, bonus commodities through TEFAP have declined approximately 70 percent nationwide over the past several years; at the same time that requests for emergency food have increased.