The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Pennsylvania

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Pennsylvania is a federal program intended to provide food to feed residents in need. Residents who meet the requirements for TEFAP eligibility can receive high-quality food at no cost. Eligibility for emergency food assistance considers the PA household’s income, as the program intends to feed to low-income families in the state. Pennsylvania residents should apply for emergency food assistance if they are having difficulty providing meals for their families. Emergency SNAP benefits are available to those who meet the qualifications and request aid. Find out more about requesting TEFAP benefits in PA and the program’s eligibility requirements within the outlined topics below.

What is the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in Pennsylvania?

The Emergency Food Assistance Program in Pennsylvania is an extension of the federal program initiated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Pennsylvania TEFAP is handled by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Food Distribution. Under the program, the USDA sends commodity foods to Pennsylvania County agencies, which then assign the food to local Lead Agencies. These Lead Agencies provide emergency food assistance by partnering with various types of organizations (or “outlets”) to distribute the food to those in need. To get TEFAP benefits, Pennsylvania residents must meet the eligibility requirements for food assistance. If they are eligible, then residents may visit any participating outlet where meals are prepared and served or packaged for home use.

Under the TEFAP, the USDA buys and sends food to each state. In some cases, emergency food comes from a surplus. Each state receives an amount of food based on its unemployment and low-income population numbers. The state of Pennsylvania is given approximately $10 million in TEFAP food each year.

Pennsylvania Emergency Food Assistance Program Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility for emergency food assistance in Pennsylvania is based on a few basic requirements. To apply for emergency food assistance in PA, your household’s established income must also be less than the TEFAP eligibility threshold. The earnings limit is dependent on your household size and relative to the federal poverty level for the current year. To see exact total gross income limits for TEFAP eligibility based on your household size, download our comprehensive guide here.

Emergency food eligibility is not determined on a person-by-person basis. When applying for emergency food assistance, the state considers the applicant’s household composition. “Households” are considered any group of family or non-family members who are living together outside of an institutional setting. Households seeking emergency food assistance eligibility must purchase and prepare meals together to be considered a household under eligibility standards. Any person who is simply boarding in the home but is not part of the economic unit and does not share meals with the household is not considered a member. However, single persons living on their own are considered a household. TEFAP eligibility standards also consider foster children to be part of the household in which they reside. However, foster parents do not have to count income received from fostering towards their income total when determining food assistance eligibility.

Pennsylvania TEFAP agencies are not allowed to require or request documentary proof of the household’s income level. TEFAP eligibility is self-declared and does not have to be proven. Other PA food assistance programs require applicants to supply information about income and family composition. Households do not have to prove their number of dependents or household members. The household representative also attests to this information by self-declaration. TEFAP participation does require that someone from the household sign to declare eligibility.

Another aspect of TEFAP eligibility requirements is residency. To meet eligibility for emergency food assistance, you and participating household members must reside in the state of Pennsylvania and live in the area surrounding the TEFAP outlet you visit. Like income eligibility, TEFAP residency eligibility is self-declared. You will not be turned away if you visit an outlet outside of your living area and there is enough food available, but you will be pointed in the direction of an outlet closer to your residence. You are not required to have an address or home to receive emergency food assistance. You may still declare yourself eligible for TEFAP if you are a homeless person or someone who cannot prove his or her identity or address. Learn more about accessing food assistance in Pennsylvania by reviewing the detailed information in our free guide here.

How to Apply for Emergency Food Assistance in Pennsylvania

You can apply for emergency food assistance in Pennsylvania with the TEFAP outlet of your choosing. All you have to do to apply for TEFAP benefits is visit an outlet and fill out a form declaring your eligibility for emergency food assistance. This form provides a space to write your name, address and the number of people residing in your household. Your signature is your final declaration that you are eligible for TEFAP. All TEFAP participants are also protected by a confidentiality agreement in which their names must not be given out, declared or displayed publicly.

Note: While you do not have to prove your TEFAP eligibility, a false self-declaration of eligibility is illegal and you may be subject to prosecution. You may even be required to pay for the food you received under the program.

When do emergency food benefits in Pennsylvania Activate?

Unlike SNAP benefits, emergency food benefits in the state have no activation period. If your household meets eligibility requirements, then you simply have to self-declare that you are eligible in order to receive emergency food assistance from a participating outlet. Likewise, participants will not have to utilize an EBT card to access food and meals from providers.

What Is the Division of Family and Children Services in Pennsylvania?

The state of Pennsylvania provides services for families and children who are most in need. The division provides resources for free and reduced lunch, food stamps and temporary cash assistance for needy families. To find out if you are eligible for these services, download our comprehensive guide to review the eligibility requirements for each program.

How Can I Apply for Assistance Through the Division of Family and Children Services?

In order to be considered for the benefit programs offered by the Division of Family and Children Services, you must submit an application via an approved method. Additionally, many of the services provided by the division have eligibility requirements that you must meet to obtain benefits. Learn all about the application processes for these programs by downloading our guide.