Emergency Food & Shelter Program (EFSP)

Emergency Food & 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 38 years of operation, the program disbursed over $4.8 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.
  • 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.Image Block

The United Way of Portage County (UWPC) Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) has received a grant award of $66,463 (Phase 41) in 2024 from the EFSP National Board Program, a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Funds received from EFSP National are used to supplement emergency food and shelter programs, including utility assistance in Portage County. Funds will be made available for housing, utility, and food assistance programs.

The amount of the award each county throughout the US receives is based upon the total number of unemployed persons as compared to the total number of unemployed persons in all qualifying jurisdictions. Funds for the EFSP program are appropriated annually by Congress and administered by a national board of non-profit organizations including United Way Worldwide; the American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; United Jewish Communities; The Salvation Army; The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.

The Portage County Emergency Food and Shelter Board is composed of local representatives of the national organization listed above as well as Portage County government, local housing authority, emergency management agency, and non-profit organizations serving low-income households. The local board is accountable to the national board for the use and awarding of the funds.

The Portage County EFSP Board has distributed EFSP funds for decades. In 2023 Family and Community Services, Inc., Change Hunger Inc., Portage County Catholic Charities and Community Action Council of Portage County, Inc. were awarded funding.

Organizations interested in applying for assistance or that would like more information should contact Bill Childers, Chair of the UWPC EFSP Board, at 330.297.1424, billc@uwportage.orgApplications are due by 4:00 p.m., Friday, March 22, 2024.

In Portage County, our United Way administers the food program through the Change Hunger group and the following organizations receive funds from this assistance: 

  • Brimfield Community Food Pantry
  • Center of Hope
  • Crestwood 4C's
  • Housing & Emergency Support Services (HESS)
  • Kent Social Services
  • Miller Community House
  • Randolph-Suffield- Atwater Food Shelf
  • Safer Futures
  • Salvation Army of Portage Co. & NE Portage Food Shelf
  • Skeels Mathews Community Center
  • Streetsboro Community Pantry

In 2023, United Way of Portage County received a grant award, $67,940 (EFSP Phase 40) from the EFSP National Board Program, and it was distributed as follows:

Phase 40:

  • $27,176 for food assistance
  • $27,176 for housing assistance
  • $13,588 for utility assistance



Applications are Due by 4:00 p.m. Friday, March 22, 2024