Emergency Food Assistance Program (Food Banks)

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

The Emergency Food Assistance Program funds four regional food banks. The Worcester County Food Bank, Greater Boston Food Bank, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley Food Bank provide food to almost 900 hunger-relief programs in Massachusetts. Programs which receive food from the four food banks include pantries, soup kitchens, transitional houses, residential programs, youth and elder centers, shelters and meal sites.

Around 13 percent of the state's population utilized emergency food assistance in FY 2012, up 1 percent from the previous year. Through MEFAP funds, the four food banks provided over 12 million meals in FY 2012, around 2 million less than the previous year. The decrease is largely due to the increase in food prices. MEFAP funds account for over one-third of all food provided by food banks.

MEFAP funding is split between the four food banks according to U.S. Census Bureau population and poverty statistics. Almost 65 percent of total funding went to the Greater Boston Food Bank in FY 2012, 14 percent to Western Massachusetts, 12 percent to Worcester County and 9 percent to Merrimack Valley. The food banks use this funding on two food purchasing programs: Core Food and the Massachusetts Grown Initiative.

Core Food funds purchase retail food such as those found in most grocery stores. Separate bids are issued for dairy, meat and grocery products with contracts awarded to the lowest bidder for each. The Massachusetts Grown Initiative provides funds to local farms which supply fresh produce and milk to the food banks benefiting both the farmers and food bank clients. Farmers access a new market while individual clients get access to fresh produce. Food from both purchasing programs gets distributed to the food banks who then distribute it to almost 900 community organizations throughout the state. Food banks can also deliver to individuals through programs such as brown bag sites utilized by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The four regional food banks and their networks of organizations serve around 800,000 people annually. Besides individual donations and food donations made by stores and restaurants – another main source of food for the food banks is the federal emergency food assistance program (TEFAP). TEFAP distributes food to public and non-profit organizations, directly to households and to the homeless in need of food and nutrition assistance.

Administration support for the food assistance program, funded separately in the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program line item 7051-0115, was combined with this line item in the FY 2013 budget.

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