The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

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The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

The goal of TEFAP is to provide emergency food providers throughout the state with the necessary framework to keep food assistance distributions flexible and responsive to lower-income Washingtonian's needs, while equitably distributing food commodities throughout Washington.

Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) manages TEFAP, receiving food and operational funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for distribution to 19 lead contractors statewide. These contractors provide food to over 500 food banks, food pantries, shelters, and meal providers in Washington. They serve hungry lower-income children, adults, elderly, and the homeless.

TEFAP foods include a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, rice, and dairy. While most food comes in shelf-stable form, fresh and frozen commodities are also found in TEFAP distributions. The emphasis in the last few years has been on healthier foods which includes more low-sodium, low-fat, and fresh options.

Federal funds and food are received from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and re-authorized every five years through the Farm Bill. Washington State's fair share is determined by poverty and unemployment statistics. The majority of the funds are passed through to lead contractors. The food received is either entitlement or bonus. Bonus product does not count against our entitlement and is typically referred to as "free" food. There is also a small amount of state funds used to meet the minimum matching requirements for the state to receive federal TEFAP funding and food.
Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) contracts with lead contractors which are responsible for program operations at the county level. A lead contractor may be responsible for one or more counties. The amount of the contract award is determined by the federal budget and allocated based on county poverty statistics. Each lead contractor determines which eligible local providers participate in order to ensure full service area coverage.

Eligible providers, typically food pantries and emergency meal providers, apply directly to their lead contractor for consideration to participate in the program. At a minimum:

  • Providers must be a registered 501(c)(3) or have submitted an application to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requesting tax-exempt status.
  • Providers must agree to abide by all applicable federal and state requirements, program policies and procedures, including but not limited to: submit required reports, including monthly inventory, practice nondiscrimination in providing services; and not require participation in religious ceremonies or charge fees for services.

TEFAP Policies and Procedures

Find guidance on TEFAP policies, proceedures, and regulations here.


TEFAP and TMP Forms

Find all required forms for WSDA TEFAP contractors and subcontractors, including forms for the temporary Trade Mitigation Program. 


Find Required Forms Here

TEFAP Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to commonly asked TEFAP questions.

Recipes and Nutrition Resources

Want help in supporting your clients in making healtheir food choices?  We've compiled tons of resources for cooking on a budget, including kid-friendly recipes, recipes in Spanish, as well as dietary guidelines from the USDA and additional nutrition guidance for older adults, pregnant women, new mothers and young children. 
For more information on how your organization can distribute TEFAP food, contact your county's lead contractor
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is an equal opportunity provider.