Emergency Food and Shelter Program

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The Emergency Food and Shelter Program began in 1983 with a $50 million federal appropriation. The program was created by Congress to help meet the needs of hungry and homeless people throughout the United States and its territories by allocating federal funds for the provision of food and shelter.

The program is governed by a National Board composed of representatives of the American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; The Jewish Federations of North America; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; The Salvation Army; and United Way Worldwide. The Board is chaired by a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

During its 28 years of operation, the program disbursed over $3.7 billion to over 13,000 local providers in more than 2,500 counties and cities.


Local EFSP

United Way of Central Illinois serves as the convener of the local EFSP board.  Locally, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program has disbursed more than $1.3 million to local programs since 2000.

EFSP Guiding Principles are:

  • Efficiency—fiscal administration, reporting and procedural guidance to Local Boards and LROs
  • Accountability—good steward of taxpayers’ dollars through reasonable oversight and transparency
  • Responsiveness—prioritize the allocation of supplemental funds to the neediest areas in the nation
  • Partnership—promote and strengthen collaboration between non-profit organizations and public sector
  • Facilitating—maximizing appropriate local decision-making through clear guidance and training

How Are Emergency Food and Shelter Program Funds Used?

Program funds are used to provide the following, as determined by the Local Board in funded jurisdictions:

  • Food, in the form of served meals or groceries.
  • Lodging in a mass shelter or hotel.
  • One month’s rent or mortgage payment.
  • One month’s utility bill.
  • Equipment necessary to feed or shelter people, up to a $300 limit per item.

How Does My Agency or Organization Apply?

When our jurisdiction is funded, the Local Board must advertise the availability of funds. Local organizations, whether nonprofit or governmental, may apply. The Local Board is responsible for considering all applications, and for determining which organizations will receive funds. The Local Board also determines which services are funded.

To learn more about EFSP, please contact the Director of Community Impact.


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