Emergency Food Assistance Programs in California

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in California is a federally funded program that provides food assistance to residents with very low incomes as well as to the elderly struggling financially. The Drought Food Assistance Program (DFAP) also provides temporary food assistance in the form food boxes and food banks to specified counties that are suffering from high levels of unemployment due to drought conditions. Residents who request either emergency SNAP benefits must meet the requirements of the specific program to receive food assistance. Additionally, California offers other food assistance opportunities during emergencies through CalFresh (SNAP) as well as programs specifically for senior citizens in the state.


The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) in California

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) does not cost eligible participants any money. If you meet California TEFAP eligibility requirements, then you will be able to obtain free healthy meals through California’s food banks and local community soup kitchens. Eligibility for emergency food assistance in California pertains to low household incomes and participation in other federal, state or local food, health or welfare assistance programs such as CalFresh and Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

If you are homeless, then you do not need to apply for emergency food assistance since you can receive prepared meals at a California community soup kitchen. However, you must meet California TEFAP eligibility rules to receive unprepared food packages from food banks. TEFAP is only provided for households that are most in need of food assistance. If your household is eligible for TEFAP, then you and your family may also be eligible for CalFresh, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and WIC.

To find out more about how to apply to the Emergency Food Assistance Program in California successfully, download our comprehensive guide.

California Drought Food Assistance Program (DFAP)

Eligibility for drought food assistance is based on a self-certification process. The drought food assistance application process entails the applicant to identify his or herself as the head of a household in a local community affected by drought and where the household’s underemployment or unemployment is caused directly by the drought situation. DFAP eligibility includes a low-income seasonal migrant farm workers who are impacted by the drought, low-income agricultural workers and low-income workers in industries related to agriculture. In addition to provision of food supplies, services covered by this program may also include assistance with utility payments, housing assistance, transportation as well as employment and job placement services.

You can apply for emergency food assistance if you are in one of these drought-related situations. If you meet DFAP eligibility for emergency food assistance, then you will receive prepackaged food boxes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This type of emergency food assistance includes nutritionally balanced, non-perishable staple items such as canned tomatoes, apple sauce, green beans, carrots, spaghetti, peanut butter and corn. The assistance package is designed to provide food for a four-person household for around five days.

Learn more about the eligibility requirements for applications to the California’s Drought Food Assistance Program in our in-depth guide here.

Emergency SNAP Benefits in California

You may be eligible for emergency SNAP benefits (also known as CalFresh Expedited Services) if you are a very low-income household and you have no money or resources with which to buy food. Under these circumstances, emergency SNAP benefits may be available to you if you meet all the other food stamp eligibility requirements. The advantage of emergency SNAP benefits is that if you are deemed eligible, you will received your food assistance benefits within days, rather than waiting for the normal application decision period.

Once you have been granted CalFresh Expedited Services, you will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, to which your monthly food assistance allowance will be added. You can use the card in any food retail store that accepts EBT. The card is easy to use, as you simply pay your groceries with EBT as you would with a regular debit card.

California Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

If you are a senior who is eligible for emergency food assistance, you may also meet the requirements for CSFP. This federally funded emergency food assistance program is designed to provide nutritionally healthy food to low-income seniors. This food assistance program is currently operated through nine local food banks in the state of California. You must meet the age and income requirements to apply for CSFP. Monthly distribution packages may include cereals, fruit, vegetables and proteins such as salmon, chicken and beef stew.

If you and your family are struggling to survive, there is no need for you to have to miss out on meals. If you are a resident of the state of California and you and your family require emergency food, then you should contact your local county welfare agency. The officers will provide information on which emergency food assistance programs you may be eligible for and how to apply for food assistance programs in California. You can also ask about the locations of the nearest food banks or soup kitchens.

What Kind of Assistance Does the Department of Social Services Offer?

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides various types of assistance benefits to residents of the state. Through the CDSS, individuals and families can obtain temporary cash assistance, food assistance and more. Furthermore, applicants who are eligible for the benefits of one CDSS program will often qualify for the assistance benefits of another. Find out everything you need to know about the services and benefits provided by the Department of Social Services by downloading our helpful CDSS guide.

Who Can Benefit From California’s Department of Social Services?

To receive benefits from the CDSS, you and your family will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. The criteria used to determine an applicant’s eligibility typically include income, age, resources and citizenship, among other factors. Find out if you qualify for California DSS assistance benefits here.