Food and Food System Resources
Several resources are available for food in everyday situations as well as before, during, and after emergencies and disasters. These resources are for individuals, households, governments, tribes, institutions, communities, and community-based and feeding organizations.
Individuals and Households
The US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) operates programs to help eligible people get food.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is for people who meet certain requirements, including resource and income limits. Special SNAP rules apply to households with elderly or disabled members. To apply for SNAP benefits, or get more information, contact your local SNAP office. See the SNAP State Directory of Resources.
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is for income-eligible households on Indian reservations and to Native American households in designated areas near reservations or in Oklahoma. For assistance, contact:
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or non-breastfeeding postpartum, infants, and children up to age 5. Recipients have low incomes and are at risk for poor nutrition. WIC provides nutritious foods to supplement diets; information on healthy eating, including breastfeeding promotion and support; and referrals to health care.
- To apply for WIC, contact your state or local agency to set up an appointment.
Preparing for an Emergency or Disaster
- Eating a healthy diet is an important part overall health and well-being, including during emergency. Find tips to help you build a nutritious emergency food supply.
- MyPlate Start simple was created for pandemics and can be used to prepare for other situations. Build a Food Kit includes suggested food and supplies for a food kit, along with tips on food safety and cooking without power. Available in multiple languages, such as Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
- Disaster Planning: Infant and Child Feeding offers tips for breastfeeding, which is the best infant feeding option in a natural disaster.
During and After an Emergency or Disaster
- After a disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides immediate assistance and other resources during recovery through its Individual Disaster Assistance program.
- People who were not eligible for assistance before a disaster may be eligible after a disaster if their incomes and resources change. The USDA FNS Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides short-term food assistance benefits to families in the aftermath of a disaster.
- To apply for D-SNAP benefits, or get more information, contact your local SNAP office. See the SNAP Local Directory of Resources.
- Also see:
1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE for Spanish for information about meal sites, food banks, and other services near you.
Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.
Or text 97779 with a question that contains a keyword such as “food” or “meals”.
The hotline is managed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Find meals for students during school summer vacation Through USDA’s summer meal programs, approved sites serve meals to kids up to age 18 at no cost. Find directions to nearby meal sites, as well as hours of operation and contact information.
- Meals on Wheels provides meals for individuals with diminished mobility who are generally 60 and older, although age requirements can vary. Find a provider online .
- Food Finder is an interactive map of food pantries and free food assistance programs.
- The USDA Local Food Directories allows users to search for a farmers’ market, community supported agriculture (CSA), or other local food businesses by zip code, product availability, payment method, and other criteria.
Governments, Tribes, Communities, and Practitioners
To identify and support people with food insecurity:
- Food and Nutrition Security State and National Profiles identifies national data sources, services, and programs to strengthen state food and nutrition security programs, policies and practices, and infrastructure.
- Survey Tools offers screening tools for food insecurity, such as the US Household Food Security Survey Module with 18 items, and the Short Form of the Food Security Survey Module with 6 items. Many non-English translations are available.
- The Hunger Vital Sign [PDF-1.01MB] is a validated, 2-question food insecurity screening tool based on the US Household Food Security Survey Module. Health care providers, social service providers, community-based outreach workers, teachers, and others can use this tool to identify people with food insecurity. It is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, Nepali, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
- Clinical Linkages [PDF-226KB] is a tool for identifying and addressing food insecurity for adults in the clinical setting. A positive food insecurity screen can be coded in the electronic medical record and patients connected with eligible food sources.
For older adults, the Administration for Community Living Nutrition and Aging Resource Center offers:
For rural communities, the Rural Health Information Hub Topic Guide provides access to publications; maps and websites; news and events; funding; organizations; and more. For example:
Before, During, and After a Disaster or Emergency
Disaster Resources from USDA FNS:
- Foods Program Disaster Manual
- Guide to Coordinating WIC Services During a Disaster
- FNS Regional Contacts, including disaster assistance coordinators
Pandemic Planning resources from USDA FNS:
- SNAP Pandemic Planning Guidelines [PDF-37.2KB]
- Using USDA Food During a Human Pandemic Outbreak: Options for Schools and Communities
Extension Disaster Education Network is a collaborative multi-state effort by Cooperative Extension Services across the country to improve the delivery of services to communities affected by disasters.
- Read more about engaging communities in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery: Community Organizations Active in Disaster
Institutions and Organizations Serving and Distributing Food
Food Service Guidelines are standards for healthier food and beverages and food service operations in worksite and community settings, such as hospitals, stadiums, and recreation centers.
Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities was originally developed for use in federal facilities, but it can also be used in public and private settings to improve access to healthier foods and beverages.
Nutrition in Food Banking Toolkit[PDF-17.2MB] helps the charitable food sector better understand and meet nutrition needs of community members with food insecurity. The toolkit’s three sections can serve as standalone resources:
- Healthy Eating Research (HER) Nutrition Guidelines for the Charitable Food System [PDF-4.1MB]
- Applying an Intercultural Competence Lens [PDF-9.3MB]
- Role of Food Bank Nutrition Policies: A Guide to Action [PDF-7.9MB]
Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety helps volunteers safely prepare food and serve large groups. Available in English [PDF-1.87MB] and Spanish [PDF-1.56MB].
How to Pack a Balanced Pantry Bag [PDF-191KB] includes information for following MyPlate nutrition recommendations, including amounts of food to provide for specific meals.
Before, During, and After a Disaster or an Emergency
Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E) Toolkit helps emergency preparedness and response personnel, families, and the public ensure that children are fed safely.
- The IYCF-E Social Media Toolkit contains ready-to-go messages for posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote information and resources related to infant and young child feeding in preparation for or during an emergency.
Food Safety Emergency Response Pocket Guide, available in English and Spanish, helps child nutrition program operators respond to emergencies.
Multi-Agency Feeding Plan Template [PDF-2.8MB] provides guidance and suggested procedures for developing a disaster feeding plan. It can be used by any jurisdiction, including states, tribal nations, counties or parishes, and municipal emergency management agencies.
Hospital Emergency Food Supply Planning Guidance and Toolkit from the California Hospital Association provides guidance to hospitals in planning for and documenting emergency food supplies, as mandated by regulatory requirements. Hospital food services directors, registered dietitians, and emergency planners can use the toolkit for joint planning.
See examples of how governments, communities, organizations, and practitioners have supported food and nutrition security before, during, and after disasters and emergencies.
Case Study Library offers reports and best practice articles from FEMA’s areas of expertise.
The Local and Regional Food Systems Response to COVID-19 resource includes:
- Resource Hub with up to 200 items, such as blogs, data sets, fact sheets, briefs, and listservs.
- Innovation Briefs with easy-to-understand ideas, best practices, and readily adoptable approaches for recovery and resilience.
- Local and Regional Food System COVID-19 Rapid Response [PDF-2.4MB] reports on how the US food system responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reimagining Hunger Responses in Times of Crisis [PDF-45.7MB] offers insights from case examples and a survey of Indian Country communities’ food access during COVID-19. Includes recommendations for strengthening agriculture infrastructure to support Native-led agriculture and food sovereignty.
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