The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Identity verification at food pantries (TEFAP food)

As Coalition members know, over the past year we have received complaints throughout the state that a number of local food pantries were requiring households to produce photo IDs as a condition of food distribution. The demand for a photo ID was affecting a wide range of low income persons - both U.S. citizens and immigrants alike - who lacked a photo ID due to homelessness, theft, domestic violence, fear of showing expired documents, or simply lack of any photo ID even though they had other forms of identification.

On behalf of concerned Food SNAP Coalition members, MLRI raised this issue with USDA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and both attended a Coalition meeting early in 2010 to discuss. DESE is the state agency that administers TEFAP funding. DESE has officially advised all of the food pantries that the practice of demanding photo IDs is prohibited. The attached letter from DESE was sent to the Greater Boston Food Bank, with identical letters sent to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, the Worcester County Food Bank and the Food Bank of Western Mass. I want to underscore that this photo ID requirement was not coming from the regional food banks, but rather emerged as an unauthorized practice at some of the local food pantries (and not all pantries, but quite a few).

Please let us know if you become aware of ongoing photo ID demands from local food banks. A big thanks to Kathleen Millett of DESE for issuing this notice to the TEFAP distributing food banks and asking them to share it with the agencies that receive TEFAP products.

REMINDER: Next Food SNAP Coalition Meeting, October 26th at St Francis House from 10 - Noon.

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