Views on Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program and Commodities for Soup Kitchens

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-04-18.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                           United States General Accounting Office   /
6   !

        For Release        Views on Temporary Emergency Food Assistance
        on Delivery        Program and Commodities  for Soup Kitchens
        Expected at
        2:OO p.m. EDT
        April  18, 1990

                           Statement   for the Record by
                           John W. Harman, Director
                           Food and Agriculture     Issues
                           Resources,    Community,   and Economic
                           Development    Division
                           Before the
                           Committee on Agriculture,
                           Nutrition,  and Forestry
                           United States Senate

        GAO/T-RCED-90-69                                                 GAO Form 160   (12/87)
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

       We are pleased to submit a statement for the record on
information   we have gathered on the effectiveness           of two programs
extended or authorized      by thell,Hunger Prevention      Act of 1988--the
Department of Agriculture's         (USDA) Temporary Emergency Food
Assistance   Program (TEFAP) and a new program to provide commodities
to soup kitchens    or food banks.        Under the TEFAP program, USDA
purchases commodities and provides them, together with commodities
from the surplus federal       inventory,    to individuals     through state
and local agencies.       USDA also provides USDA-purchased commodities
to soup kitchens/food      banks through similar       agencies.     The
objective   of our work was to obtain the views of as many commodity
recipients   and federal,    state,    and local officials      involved with
these programs as possible        in the limited    time available      to prepare
for this hearing.     We obtained their views on (1) the effectiveness
of the purchase of commodities;          (2) the adequacy of the amounts and
types of commodities going to individuals           and soup kitchens/food
banks and the timeliness      of their delivery       and (3) other issues and
concerns about the program.

      To accomplish our objective,        we talked to USDA officials        at
the Food and Nutrition    Service (FNS), the Agricultural           Marketing
Service,  and the Agricultural      Stabilization      and Conservation
Service.   At the state level we limited          our work to Illinois     and
Alabama, judgmentally    selected to give us a large northern state
with a major urban population       and a rural southern state.          Within
these states,   we discussed the programs with 24 local recipient
agencies and 30 individual      recipients.       Of the 24 agencies,     11
received TEFAP commodities,      4 received soup kitchen commodities,
and 9 received both.     Because of the limited         scope of our work,
these views represent    only the views of officials         interviewed     and
should not be considered representative           of others in Illinois,
Alabama, or other states.

        In summary, USDA and state officials         told us that USDA's
management of commodity purchases appears to be working
effectively     after initial     program "start-up"     delays, and recipient
agency officials      said they were generally       satisfied     with the
amounts, types, and delivery          schedules of the commodities
received.     However, state and local officials,            as well as
individual    recipients     we interviewed,    suggested changes to the
programs.     Regarding TEFAP, their suggestions           included

      --    increasing    the commodity amounts in some localities                  to
            enable all    recipients to receive planned allocations                  of

      -- providing       commodities   from each of the four          basic    food

      --    increasing   USDA administrative      funding to cover more of the
            costs incurred by some local        agencies administering TEFAP;

      -- reviewing    the existing    paperwork requirements            that may be
         contributing    to volunteer    attrition  at local           agencies.

Regarding     the Soup Kitchen     program,    their   suggestions      included

      -- providing more state and local flexibility                  to determine         the
         best way to use program commodities;

      -- ensuring that commodity packaging is appropriate                     for
         emergency food facilities of various sizes; and

     -- providing        commodities   from each of the basic          food groups.


       when TEFAP was initiated          in 1983 it was intended to be a one-
time release of surplus dairy products to reduce federal
inventories    and storage costs and to provide needy individuals                 with
temporary food assistance.            Since 1983, the Congress has extended
TEFAP periodically      to continue the food assistance,            and over the
years the program has expanded to include other surplus
commodities.      In fiscal     year 1988, USDA distributed         692.1 million
pounds of commodities under TEFAP, a 32 percent decrease from the
previous year.      This decrease reflected           reduced availability     of
surplus commodities,        particularly       cheese, honey, and rice.     TEFAP
and other domestic and foreign             food aid programs, combined with the
declining    surpluses,     depleted these commodities.

       After surpluses available          to TEFAP diminished,     the Hunger
Prevention      Act of 1988 authorized       USDA for the first      time to
purchase commodities to increase the amounts and types of food
distributed.        First,    the act extended TEFAP through September 30,
1990, and required         the Secretary of Agriculture       to spend
$120 million      annually to purchase, process, and distribute
additional      TEFAP commodities to states during fiscal            years 1989 and
1990.      Second, the act authorized        the continuation     of $50 million
annually to help defray costs incurred by states for storing                  and
distributing      the commodities to recipient        agencies.     Third, the act
also required       the Secretary to spend $40 million          each year in
fiscal     years 1989 and 1990, and $32 million          in 1991, to purchase,
process, and distribute          additional    commodities to states for
distribution      to soup kitchens       and food banks that provide meals or
food to the homeless and other needy persons.

      Officials   from FNS (which has overall   responsibility       for the
Programs 1, the Agricultural     Stabilization and Conservation        Service,
and the Agricultural    Marketing Service work together        to determine
the* amounts and types of items to be purchased under both programs.
 Under TEFAP, USDA must make sure that the commodities meet
requirements      set forth in the act.         For example, commodities must
be (1) high in nutrient       density,       (2) easily and safely stored,      (3)
convenient      to use, and (4) desired by recipient           agencies.     In
addition      USDA determines whether sufficient        quantities      of a
commodity are available       at a reasonable price.           For the Soup
Kitchen program, USDA told us that they developed the criteria                  used
to select commodities for purchase.              These criteria    include
availability,      market price,     and feedback from states,        local
agencies,      and individual    recipients.

       For both programs, most commodities,       such as canned
vegetables,    pork, and juice,    are purchased by the Agricultural
Marketing Service.        Peanut butter is purchased for both programs by
the Commodity Credit Corporation,        which is administered     by the
Agricultural    Stabilization    and Conservation    Service.    In addition,
for TEFAP, the Commodity Credit Corporation          also continues to
provide surplus commodities--such        as butter and flour--from      its
inventory.     (App. I and II provide amounts and types of commodities
for TEFAP in fiscal       years 1985-90, and for the Soup Kitchen
program in fiscal      years 1989-90, respectively.)

       USDA makes these commodities available       to states   according to
a formula outlined      in the act.   This formula is based 60 percent on
the number of persons in households in the state having incomes
below the poverty level and 40 percent on the number of unemployed
persons in the state.       USDA allocates   administrative   funds to
states on the same basis.       States provide commodities from both
programs to various recipient       agencies which often rely on
volunteers   to distribute    commodities to needy individuals       and soup
kitchens   or food banks.


        According to USDA and state officials             who distribute     the
commodities,      the new mandatory purchase requirement              appears to be
working effectively,       although a start-up         delay occurred in fiscal
year 1989, so that states did not receive commodities until                     the
second quarter of the year.            USDA officials      told us that although
the act authorized      the purchase requirement           in September 1988,
funds were not actually         available    until    late October.       FNS
officials     said it took approximately          3 months to determine        which
and how much of each commodity to purchase.                  In addition,    the
agency needed time to invite           bidders and accept contractors           to
process and distribute        the new commodities.

        According to USDA officials,  no delays occurred in fiscal
year 1990 with the mandatory procurement process.        However, USDA
officials     stated that delays in authorizing   TEFAP until  late in any
fiscal    year may lead to start-up  delays similar   to those that
occurred in fiscal      year 1989.

      In fiscal  year 1989, USDA distributed           about 21 million        pounds
of commodities to Illinois        and about 10 million        pounds to Alabama.
Although some recipient        agency officials     and individual       recipients
in these states said they were generally            satisfied     with the amounts
and types of commodities USDA provided,            others said the program
could be improved.       Thirteen   of 20 local agencies we visited             said
the amounts of TEFAP commodities they received were not adequate to
meet their needs.      For instance,        five agency officials      said they
frequently   do not have enough commodities to give all recipients
the planned allocation       per household member. Some said that they
juggle the commodities from one distribution              site to another or
they juggle each individuals'          amount in attempts to give people
equal amounts of commodities.           Others provide the planned
alLocation   on a "first-come,       first-served"     basis until     they run
        Recipient     agency officials     and recipients     said they were not
entirely     satisfied     with the types of commodities they received
because they do not receive food from each of the four basic food
groups.      For example, 17 of 20 recipient          agencies emphasized the
desire to have cheese distributed            while 15 of 20 emphasized a
desire for nonfat dry milk.            In addition,     13 of 30 individual
recipients     expressed disappointment         over the lack of cheese.
Except for butter,         TEFAP does not provide food from the milk and
cheese group because, according to USDA officials,                they cannot be
purchased in sufficient         quantities     at a reasonable price.
Recipient     agency officials       and individual    recipients    noted that
they appreciated        the protein    items, such as peanut butter,        that
replaced the cheese.

        Several of the recipients      also indicated  a desire to have a
wider variety     of food distributed.      For example, seven suggested
offering    cereal and chicken as well as canned meat, vegetables,        and

       State and recipient    agency officials    indicated that the
delivery    schedules were generally    timely and appropriate   for their
needs.     However, local agency officials     raised other issues
relating    to TEFAP administrative   funds and paperwork requirements.

      Twelve recipient         agencies in Illinois         and Alabama said or
provided documentation           indicating     that the administrative       funds
were not adequate to meet the agencies'                 costs for operating     TEFAP.
State officials        in Illinois      and Alabama agreed that the
administrative       funds USDA currently          provides are not sufficient        to
cover recipient        agencies'     operating     costs.    These officials     also
told us that they distributed              about 80 percent and 95 percent,
respectively,      of the funds provided by USDA to cover transportation
of ocommodities to recipient            agencies, in addition       to covering those
agencies'     handling and storage costs.
        Paperwork requirements,       which are designed to ensure that only
needy individuals        receive commodities,    may deter some agencies'
volunteers     from helping to administer       the program, according to
officials    in three local Illinois       agencies that we visited.
Federal regulations        require that each recipient     agency collect   and
submit records to the state of all commodities distributed.               These
records must include the address of each household receiving
commodities;      the signature     of the household member that receives
the commodities;       the number of persons in the household;       and the
date, type, and quantity          of commodities received.    None of the
recipient    agencies in Alabama, however, said paperwork requirements
deterred    volunteers.


        USDA is in the second year of       implementing provisions     of the
Hunger Prevention      Act of 1988 that    mandate purchasing and
distributing      commodities for soup    kitchens   and food banks.
According to staff      at 10 recipient    agencies and distribution      sites
we visited     that receive this food,     the number of meals being served
with soup kitchen commodities has         been increasing    and reflects    a
growing need for the program.

       As with TEFAP, USDA purchased commodities in fiscal           year 1989
after limited      start-up    delays, according to an FNS official,     and
began distributing        the commodities in the third month.      USDA
distributed    fiscal     year 1990 soup kitchen commodities to states
starting    in the first      month.

        Each state determines how it will allocate        its share of the
commodities to its recipient       agencies, or directly      to emergency
food providers      such as soup kitchens.     The soup kitchens vary in
size and number of persons served.          Food banks--charitable
institutions     that channel donated food to the hungry--also        receive
some commodities under this program.    Food banks distribute          these
commodities to different   types of emergency food centers,         including
food pantries  that provide bags of groceries   to individual

       According to officials      from the two FNS regional  offices we
visited,    FNS encourages states to make these commodities available
first    to soup kitchens   and then to offer the remainder to food
banks.     Alabama state officials     said that about 85 percent of its
soup kitchen commodities go to food banks, after the state has met
the needs of the 13 soup kitchens         in the state.

        Officials      and staff from the recipient    agencies we visited
that receive soup kitchen commodities generally             expressed
satisfaction       with the amounts and types of commodities they
received.        Thirteen   agencies in Illinois    and Alabama said they were
satisfied      with the commodity amounts and types, while two mentioned
they would like to see more variety            of commodities offered.

        FNS recognizes    the need for variety,   but purchases commodities
on the basis of availability,       market price,   and local feedback, in
conjunction     with its own budget constraints.      As shown in appendix
II, for fiscal       year 1990, FNS decided, according to these criteria,
to add some items and remove others from the list of items that FNS
purchased in fiscal       year 1989. Some examples cited by the
officials    follow:

       -- Although orange juice was well-received      at soup kitchens
          during fiscal    year 1989, FNS did not purchase orange juice
          in 1990 because a December 1989 freeze in Florida reduced
          the availability     of oranges and increased the price.

       --   Since apples were readily available  at reasonable prices           in
   *        fiscal year 1990, due to a large harvest,   FNS purchased

            apples and provided      apple    juice   and applesauce     to soup

       --   Lentils and grapefruit   juice purchased in fiscal    year 1989
            were no longer purchased in 1990 because local agencies
            told FNS that recipients    did not like these items.

       In addition,   officials   from distribution  sites,  recipient
agencies,   the two states,     and FNS, told us that they did not
experience    any problems with the timely delivery      of commodities.

        The state and local agency officials              we interviewed,      however,
suggested several possible           changes in the administration            of the
soup kitchen program.         First,    state officials        from Alabama said
they should be allowed to provide soup kitchen commodities to
agencies that distribute         TEFAP commodities to individuals              because
Alabama has only 13 soup kitchens.              An FNS official        for the
Southeast Region said that soup kitchen demand is lower in
primarily     rural states because individuals             must travel     longer
distances     to reach soup kitchens,        and rural areas have less of an
identifiable       "homeless" problem than urban areas.              He also said
that states in that region qualify            for a large portion         of soup
kitchen commodities because the region's                poverty and unemployment
are higher than in other regions,            but the region has few soup
kitchens     relative   to the amount of commodities it can receive.                  He
cited the Mississippi        Delta area as one example of an extremely
poor area without soup kitchen-type             facilities       to provide emergency
hunger relief.

       Second, state and local agency officials         told us that smaller
food providers        sometimes needed some commodities packaged in small
containers      rather than institutional-size    packaging.    According to
FNS officials,        packaging sizes for soup kitchen commodities
originally      focused on feeding large groups, which FNS perceived to
require    institutional-size      packaging.  FNS officials   said they have
recognized the local need by providing     dry beans, peanut butter,
and fruit  juices  in smaller containers   in fiscal  year 1990.     In
addition,  one recipient   agency official   told us that fruits    and
vegetables would be more useful in smaller cansl although FNS
officials  said they have not received any complaints     regarding     the
packaging size for these commodities.

      Third,  13 recipient     agencies we visited      said commodities
should come from the four basic food groups.             Two local agency
officials   in Illinois,    however, said this should be done only if
USDA is able to continue purchasing a wide variety             of commodities
rather than a limited      variety.    In fiscal    year 1990, FNS has not
provided dairy products or breads and cereals for the soup kitchen
program.    As discussed earlier,      FNS selected the commodities it
purchased based on various criteria         including    but not limited   to
nutritional   value    and variety.

      Although not related  to the new provisions         in the Hunger
Prevention   Act of 1988, we have issued earlier        reports on TEFAP.
(See app. III.)

APPENDIX I                                                                                                                                                      APPENDIX I

                                       ..                   Amount8        ad Types of TEFAP Commodities
                                            ..                               Fiscal     Years        1985-90
Quantitfea          of
Commodities              in Pounds
                                             FY 1985               FY      1986                 FY     1987             FY 1988             FY 1989             FY 199oa
Butter                                119,066,858             70,587,264                  67,096,992               66,798,456          63,366,588           33,495,264
Procesrsd  Cheese                     403,236,270            409,980,540                 41S,170,180              233,935,200
cheddar Cheese                                 22,263                             0                           0                   0                   00                 8
Bulk Cheese                             39,753,590                                                                                0                   0
Nonfat        Dry   Milk               79,980,080             93,556,4408                  98,856,82:              86,387,280                                          8
Cornmeal                               35,425,OOO             37.842.000                  48.053.250               48,584,250          48,590,95:           26,609,OOO
Flour                                 106,877,600            127;293;800                 137;861;500              134,573,500         133,794,200           67,494,OOO
Honey                                  69,325,920             78,015,348                  92,330,316               44,899,524          28,490,580           23,690,196
Rice                                   75,874,848            130,675,584                 154,719,600               76,950,OOO                         k                o_
Total        TB?AP/;Burplum           929,562,429            947,950,984              1,014,088,662               692,089,798         274,224,318          151,288,460

                                                                                                                                       53,894,400           23,000,OOO
Canned Porkb                                                                                                                           41,420,700           15,800,OOO
egg Mix                                                                                                                                 9,072,ooo                        0
Raisins                                                                                                                                  81524,800           7,800,000
Vegetable  Beans,
  Canned                                                                                                                               27,686,400           23,100,OOO
Green Beans, Canned                                                                                                                                   0     14,700,000

Total    TBPAXWurchaao                                  2                     0                           0                           140,598,300           84,400,OOO

Tot81 TWAP-All                        -917.950.981t.011.088.652
PTEPAP/SWP~U~data                 ia through            March 1990, TEFAPIPurchase   data is through January                                1990.
OFY 90 figures    for canned pork                       and peanut  butter  are as of January  1990 only.
A8 of then,    USDA has completed                       purchasing  all commodities  except these two.


APPENDIXII                                                                    APPENDIX

                    Amunts and Types of Soup Kitchen Cammdities
                                Fiscal Years 1989-90

Quantities of
Camcdities in Founds
                                FY 1989              FY 199oa

Soup Kitchen/Purchase
LuncheonMeat                  2,196,OOO                      0
CannedPorkb                  13,254,624            3,600,OOO
Grapefruit Juice             16,822,300                      0
Orange Juice                 24,282,300                      0
canned pears                  1,443,ooo                      0
Dry Beans                     5,160,637            5,000,000
Lentils                       3,400,000                      0
Green Split Peas              1,440,000                      0
Dehydrated Potatoes           6,540,432                      0
Sweet Potatoes                5,236,425            3,800,OOO
Canned Peaches                          0          5,800,OOO
canned corn                                       10,700,000
Peanut Butterb                         :           2,700,OOO
cannedPlums                            0           2,300,OOO
CannedApple Juice                      0          15,100,000
CannedApplesauce                       !?.        16,200,OOO


aSoup Kitchen data is through January 1990.
b?Y 90 figures for canned pork amI peanut butter are as of January 1990   only.   As   of
then, USDAhad ccqleted purchasing all cmmdities except these two.

APPENDIX III                                                  APPENDIX III

         Past GAO Reports Relating to the Temporary Emergency
                         Food Assistance Program

Federally Owned Dairy Products:  Inventories and Distribution,
Fiscal Years 1982-88 (GAO/RCED-88-108FS, Feb. 23, 1988).

Surplus Commodities:   Temporary Emergency Food Assistance   Program's
Operations and Continuance  (GAO/RCED-88-11, Oct. 19, 1987).

Food Inventories:      Inventory Management of Federally    Owned and
Donated Surplus     Foods (GAO/RCED-86-11, Dec. 5, 1985).

Government-Owned Surplus Dairy     Products   Held in Inventory
(GAO/RCED-85-43, Jan. 7, 1985).

Improved Administration of Special Surplus Dairy Product
Distribution Program Needed (GAO/RCED-84-58, Mar. 14, 1984).

Government-Owned Surplus Dairy Products       Held in Inventory
(GAO/RCED-84-72, Dec. 20, 1983).