You may need emergency money now if you do not know how you are going to pay for your next meal. The government has several grocery help programs that give you funds to pay for food. Eligibility for these programs generally involves income restrictions, but some require you to be a certain age, have children or be pregnant.
There are also food charities that provide food directly. Some organizations have a fast way to get emergency cash needed now, and the requirements to receive assistance are less formal. For instance, soup kitchens do not usually need to see your bank statements or pay stubs.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides food to qualified Americans through State Distributing Agencies. Each state determines the amount of food to distribute based on the number of people who are unemployed or have incomes less than the state’s poverty level.
States issue food to local organizations – like soup kitchens and food pantries – to distribute to the local public. In some cases, community action agencies deliver food directly to low-income households, such as seniors who are unable or have difficulty leaving home.
Public and private nonprofit organizations that provide TEFAP foods:
- Directly to households determine eligibility through state-approved income standards.
- In a public setting must demonstrate that they serve in areas with mostly low-income households, so recipients usually do not have to prove they qualify as long as they live in the area.
Another emergency food assistance option is the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). This program is typically only available if you experienced food loss as a result of a disaster, such as a hurricane.
However, some states only provide D-SNAP if you are an existing SNAP recipient who lost food as a result of a household misfortune, such as a power outage of 12 hours or more. Each state determines eligibility requirements.
If you need help buying groceries, you may apply for non-emergency programs, such as:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP offers vouchers or funds through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to help you pay for approved foods. Eligibility for the program generally depends on earning less than your household expenses and having little money in the bank.
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC). As the name suggests, WIC is only available if you are a pregnant or postpartum woman or have young children. You must also meet categorical requirements, such as having a low income, being at nutritional risk, and living in an area that has the program.
Your children may be able to receive free or reduced-price food at school through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The eligibility requirements are based on income, and household income determines if your child qualifies for meals at a reduced price or free of charge.
However, your children may qualify if your household already participates in other social service programs, such as SNAP or Head Start.
You may find free food at food banks, such as Feeding America. Nonprofits and religious organizations may also offer food or funds for groceries seasonally or year-round.