TEFAP and the Charitable Food System
In 1981, President Reagan slashed the budgets of assistance programs for low-income households, cutting billions from the Food Stamp Program. Fearful that these cuts would leave Americans starving, Congress passed the bipartisan Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which expanded the distribution of surplus agricultural products to the states. States then passed TEFAP products along to eligible agencies — mostly private charities — which fundamentally shifted the responsibility of food aid from the government to private charitable organizations.
While these private charities provided important emergency services to those facing hunger, the nature of TEFAP restricted funds for administrative support, so many of the agencies relied on the labor of volunteers and struggled to meet their communities’ growing needs. And because TAFAP did not include protections against discrimination, some organizations would turn hungry people away if they showed signs of substance use, if they did not speak English, or if they were otherwise deemed to be “suspect.” Some religiously affiliated organizations would evangelize before providing food.
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be