Emergency Food Program Operating Despite Federal Government Shutdown

January 25, 2019

For more information contact: Leigh Hallett at (207) 215-7388

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) announced today that its food programs have a steady supply of food to distribute to food pantries and other non-profit organizations throughout the state.

The Department operates The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides a wide variety of nutritious, high-quality foods to partnering organizations throughout the state. Both TEFAP and a related program, the Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) are based in Augusta and serve all 16 counties. Through these programs, Maine can procure large quantities of nutritious foods from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although the USDA has been affected by the federal government shutdown, the DACF's TEFAP/CSFP Director Jason Hall says, "There's no need for the staff and volunteers who run these organizations to be concerned about the flow of USDA food that we are sending to them. We place our orders months in advance, and the contracts are in place to supply this food for at least 6 months."

"We want to assure the food pantries, and their patrons, that the USDA food is going to keep coming," says Hall. "All those staple foods that pantries rely on, such as canned vegetables, pasta, cereals, peanut butter, and even frozen meats, are already in the pipeline and headed for Maine."

Hall orders food from the USDA weekly, planning months ahead to provide nutritionally sound menus, while strategically using his federal food aid budget to purchase the maximum amount of healthful foods.

Leigh Hallett, Director of the DACF Agricultural Resource Development Division, says, "We have consistently increased the amount of food purchases annually by shopping strategically and building solid relationships with the USDA staff. The amount of food we're supplying to pantries has increased dramatically in recent years, while the cost to operate the programs has remained consistent."

In 2018, the Maine DACF provided 252 organizations with the healthy staple foods that form the basis of a nutritious diet for vulnerable families. The Department's Augusta facility distributed more than 1.2 million pounds of food statewide, as well as contracting with the Good Shepherd Food Bank for an additional 1.5 million pounds of food for distribution statewide. In 2018, an estimated 144,000 Mainers were living below the poverty line, and TEFAP provided food assistance to approximately 32,000 to 40,000 people each month. CSFP provided food boxes to 9,229 low income seniors monthly.

Maine's network of food pantries relies on a variety of partners to provide other services, including cooking and nutrition classes. Maine SNAP-Ed, whose Nutrition Educators teach cooking skills to people of all ages, is one such program. The nutritionists often work with the staple foods provided by the TEFAP program, and help educate consumers about the less common foods as well. "We know that the pantries receive large quantities of dried and canned beans through the DACF program, and our educators are teaching people simple recipes to utilize these foods that many Mainers are unfamiliar with. These staple foods will help many people across the state to prepare simple, healthy meals that will help them to stretch their limited food dollars," according to Maine SNAP-Ed Program Manager, Elizabeth Pratt.

To locate a participating food pantry, visit: https://www.maine.gov/dacf/ard/tefap/

To learn more about the Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) or "Senior Boxes," contact:

  • Wayside Food Programs: Cumberland, Oxford, &York Counties, (207) 775-4939
  • Spectrum Generations: Kennebec, Somerset, Knox, Androscoggin, Lincoln, and Waldo Counties, (800) 639-1553
  • Eastern Area Agency on Aging: Washington, Hancock, Piscataquis, and Penobscot Counties, (207) 941-2865
  • Aroostook Agency on Aging: Aroostook County, (207) 764-3396
  • Western Maine Community Action Program: Franklin County, (207) 645-3764