About the Emergency Food and Shelter Program

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 33 years of operation, the program disbursed over $4.198 billion to over 14,000 local providers in more than 2,500 counties and cities.

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.


Are Administrative Costs Allowed?

A jurisdiction may use up to 2% of its award for administrative purposes. State Set-Aside Committees may use up 0.5% for administrative purposes. The National Board uses up to one percent of the total allocation for its administrative costs.



How Does My Agency or Organization Apply?

When a 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. Contact the National Board staff for specific local contacts. There is no national application process.