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More Wisconsinites now qualify for food assistance

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has announced that more households will now be able to get food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Households with incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), are now eligible to receive a monthly share of locally grown, Grade-A foods, that include meat, vegetables, fruit, juice and more, from a TEFAP food pantry. For a household of one, that income threshold is $38,280.

The larger the household, the higher the income threshold. Previously, TEFAP’s qualifying income threshold was 185 percent FPL or $23,606 for a household of one.

“Good nutrition is foundational and we want to help ensure families in need of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic have access,” said DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “By increasing the income limit for TEFAP, more Wisconsinites can receive, or supplement, their food supplies, without risk of losing the benefits they receive from other programs.”

The new income threshold was proposed by Wisconsin’s TEFAP Advisory Council, and approved by the DHS and the USDA, to assist families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new policy went into effect June 1 statewide, and will affect all pantries from the first day they open that month, since some pantries are only open once or twice a month.

Households affected by job losses may be eligible if their income drops below specific levels in any given week.

Enrollment at a participating pantry is confidential, and requires only proof of address and identification. Individuals participating in the FoodShare, School Nutrition, WIC and Senior Meals programs, may participate in TEFAP without impacting their ability to qualify for those programs.

Each Wisconsin county has at least one TEFAP food pantry. Households should call 211, the statewide helpline, to get the address, service hours and phone number of the nearest food pantry that participates in the TEFAP program.

Wisconsin’s pantry volunteers are providing “no contact” food distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic, by enrolling households and distributing groceries outdoors to minimize health risks. In many locations, TEFAP applicants and participants remain in their cars for service.