Notice to Stakeholders: New Rule to Enhance Customer Service and Link Farms to Food Banks in TEFAP

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (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 food banks and pantries. In recent years, a number of states have recognized the value of supporting donations from local farmers to their food bank networks – commonly known as Farm to Food Bank Projects.

Section 4018 of the 2018 Farm bill established projects within TEFAP to harvest, process, package or transport donated commodities for use by Emergency Feeding Organizations (EFOs).

Today, October 4, the final rule implementing Section 4018, “The Emergency Food Assistance Program: Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” published in the Federal Register. This new final rule from USDA offers additional funds and guidance to states aimed at reducing food waste from production, processing or distribution levels through the donation of food; providing food to individuals in need and building relationships between agricultural producers, processors, and distributors and EFOs. The rule also:

  • Establishes the parameters for states, at their option, to launch Farm to Food Bank projects to harvest, process, package, or transport donated commodities for use by TEFAP EFOs, also known as Farm to Food Bank Projects. This includes direction on how plans of operation for these projects should be reflected in TEFAP state plans.

  • Ensures that TEFAP state agencies provide EFOs, or eligible recipient agencies (ERAs) within the state, an opportunity to provide input on their commodity preferences and needs.

These provisions enhance stronger customer service and provide an opportunity to make Farm to Food Bank part of a state’s TEFAP strategy. It is essential to provide local community organizations the chance to share their needs and what USDA can do better in order to deliver exceptional customer service. The rule announced today, ensures that EFOs and ERAs that receive and use or distribute TEFAP foods have sufficient opportunity to comment on their USDA Foods preferences and needs. 

This is a final rule, but comments will be accepted for 60 days from the date of publication on multiple discretionary provisions. If comments submitted warrant changes to the rule, USDA will make such changes through publication of a new final rule.

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