USDA Awards Grants to Improve Reach and Resiliency of Emergency Food System

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service awarded $8,036,952 to seven southeastern states to improve The Emergency Food Assistance Program, commonly known as TEFAP, and reach into remote, rural, tribal, and/or low-income areas that are underserved by the program. Across the country, 38 agencies received more than $39 million through these grants.

TEFAP is a federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost. Through TEFAP, USDA purchases a variety of nutritious, high-quality USDA Foods—nutritious, domestically sourced and produced foods—and makes those foods available to state agencies. States provide the food to local emergency food providers that they have selected, usually food banks, which in turn distribute the food to local organizations, such as soup kitchens and food pantries that directly serve the public. These local organizations then distribute the USDA Foods to eligible recipients for household consumption or use them to prepare and serve meals in a congregate setting. 

“USDA is committed to building back better with a food system that works for all those in need, especially communities that are systemically plagued with nutrition insecurity,” said Cindy Long, administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “These grants are a step in the right direction towards better serving people in remote, rural, tribal and low-income areas with The Emergency Food Assistance Program, providing critical nutrition for those who need it.”

States receiving TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants will use funds to implement unique and creative solutions to address potential gaps in TEFAP coverage, and to make critical investments in food distribution infrastructure in underserved areas. Through the grants, USDA is empowering state agencies to better serve those in need of emergency food assistance, especially in communities facing barriers to access. Grant funding was provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, as part of USDA’s Build Back Better Initiative.

The following is a list of this year’s TEFAP grant recipients in the Southeast Region:

  • The Alabama State Department of Education has been awarded $794,405 and will be partnering with the Alabama Food Bank Association (ALFBA). ALFBA will serve as the Project Manager for the grant and oversee four sub-grants to TEFAP eligible recipient agencies (ERAs) within the State. These ERAs include the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, Feeding the Gulf Coast, Food Bank of North Alabama, and Montgomery Area Food Bank. Each food bank’s project is uniquely tailored to the needs of the food bank’s service area. Project activities include establishing new food pantries in rural and underserved areas; expanding existing ERA capacity in underserved areas; increasing training opportunities, staffing, equipment and technology purchases for food banks and partner agencies in targeted areas; and expanding TEFAP client-based support activities such as educational materials, cooking classes, recipe cards, surveys, and marketing efforts that are intended to increase client understanding of the program and promote TEFAP to eligible populations who may not be currently accessing the program.
  • The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been awarded $2,549,198 and will implement two separate sub-grant programs for local agencies within the State. The first opportunity will be noncompetitive in nature and available to current TEFAP food banks within the State that are serving remote, rural, tribal, and/or low-income areas. These sub-grants will focus on meeting the existing infrastructure needs of these organizations and on improving their capacity to procure, receive, store, distribute, track, and deliver time-sensitive or perishable food products. The second sub-grant opportunity is more competitive in nature and available to any organization in the state interested in implementing, improving, or expanding their food distribution program in remote, rural, tribal, and/or low-income area(s). Priority under this second program will be given to those that do not already receive TEFAP food or administrative funding to allow the state agency to expand TEFAP’s reach, creating TEFAP partner organizations in areas that are presently underserved by the program.
  • The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Foods Distribution Division has been awarded $753,550 and will implement a client-based intake system at partner organizations in the God’s Pantry Food Bank service area. Implementation of the system is intended to better understand the clients and communities the food bank serves, and to identify any deficiencies in current program coverage. This service area covers some of the most rural and remote parts of Kentucky and was identified during an initial assessment as an area where TEFAP distributions are less frequent than other areas. Grant project funds will also be applied to sub-grants to eligible recipient agencies in underserved areas across the state. Sub-grant funds will be available to repair aging infrastructure, upgrade racking/storage systems, purchase food distribution vehicles, fund new hires, and purchase mobile pantry equipment necessary for expanding outreach.
  • The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) has been awarded $681,340 and will conduct a comprehensive assessment of food insecurity rates and barriers to food security in each Mississippi county, with an emphasis on remote, rural, tribal and low-income areas. The study will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies and the State Data Center of Mississippi. Results of the study will be used to identify eligible recipient agencies for a sub-grant program that will focus on TEFAP equipment and infrastructure upgrades in underserved areas. MDHS anticipates awarding approximately 40 sub-grants. Grant funds will also be applied to the Mississippi Food Network, Mid-South Food Bank, and Catholic Social and Community Services which will work to expand mobile food pantry services to underserved populations in their respective service areas.
  • The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been awarded $1,428,919 and will partner with six North Carolina food banks and Feeding the Carolinas to expand access to TEFAP for residents in 30 high-need, rural counties across the state. The 30 counties were identified as target areas for the grants based on an assessment of food insecurity rates and the current number of meals provided per person in need within North Carolina counties.  These counties are identified as “non-metro areas” according to USDA Rural-Urban Continuum Codes. Using Reach and Resiliency project funds, food banks will leverage their existing networks within the target counties to fund the equipment and infrastructure upgrades necessary for reaching underserved populations. Food banks will also work to develop new partners or distribution sites to distribute TEFAP foods in underserved areas. Equipment and infrastructure upgrades will be dependent on specific needs but are expected to include items such as commercial refrigerators and freezers, coolers, thermal blankets, scales, pallet jacks, and food delivery vehicles. 
  • The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has been awarded $820,781 and will focus on expanding refrigeration and freezer capacity at food bank partner agencies in 24 counties across the State.  These counties have been identified as remote, rural, tribal, and/or low-income. Equipment upgrades are intended to increase the distribution of TEFAP produce, meat, dairy, and frozen items to individuals in the target counties. The state will partner with four food banks: Golden Harvest Food Bank, Harvest Hope Food Bank, Lowcountry Food Bank, and Second Harvest Food Bank. Each food bank will oversee managing the sub-grant awards that are given to partner agencies in their respective jurisdictions.
  • The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has been awarded $1,008,759 and will partner with five TEFAP food banks on its Reach and Resiliency project. Each food bank will manage a sub-grant intended to expand TEFAP’s reach in underserved and rural areas by crafting the different strategies employed by each food bank. The Chattanooga Area Food Bank and Mid-South Food Bank will focus on expansion of mobile pantries. The Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee will focus on purchasing equipment and providing renovation support to local distribution agencies. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee will increase TEFAP distributions and establish new distribution sites in underserved areas. Also, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee will conduct a needs assessment to better understand the current reach in addition to making cooling and freezing upgrades at several distribution agencies.

“The TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants will help promote equity in access to critical emergency food assistance by supporting advancements to infrastructure to reach underserved populations,” said Southeast Regional Administrator USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Willie C. Taylor. “They empower state agencies to better serve those in need of emergency food assistance, especially in communities facing barriers to access.” 

A full list of awardees and grant amounts can be found on the FNS webpage. This is the first of two rounds of the TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants, which combined, will provide up to $100 million in TEFAP investments.

The TEFAP Reach and Resiliency grants are happening concurrently with an initiative by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing service, which is establishing the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program. The LFPA, which also supports the nation’s emergency food system, is part of the “Build Back Better” initiative, authorized by the American Rescue Plan. The purpose of this program is to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency; it will award up to $400 million through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to support local, regional, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through the purchase of domestic local foods.

Both the TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grants and the LFPA efforts are part of a larger strategy to support the emergency food system. In total, USDA expects to invest approximately $2 billion in the nation’s emergency food system in fiscal year 2022 with a goal of maintaining similar levels of support as in fiscal year 2021. This is in addition to resources from other federal agencies, such as the Department of the Treasury’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which some states are using to help procure a continuous food supply for food banks and other emergency food providers.

For more information about TEFAP, visit: The Emergency Food Assistance Program | Food and Nutrition Service ( For more information about LFPA, visit Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program | Agricultural Marketing Service (

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) leverages its 15 nutrition assistance programs to ensure that children, low-income individuals, and families have opportunities for a better future through equitable access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food, while building a more resilient food system. Under the leadership of Secretary Tom Vilsack, FNS is fighting to end food and nutrition insecurity for all through programs such as SNAP, school meals, and WIC. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. To learn more, visit and follow @USDANutrition.

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