EFNEP was established by the USDA in 1968 as a pilot project in response to the increasing recognition of poverty in America and the link between poverty and malnutrition. Pilot studies in several states, including California, helped identify effective approaches for contacting at-risk families and teaching and maintaining education programs for people living in poverty.
In 1969 EFNEP was funded as a permanent program with Smith-Lever 3(d) funds, a line item in the United States Farm Bill. EFNEP is an ANR statewide program. In California, the UC ANR has programmatic and fiscal responsibility for the program. UC Cooperative Extension county professionals and paraprofessionals have responsibility for the delivery of the adult and youth programs to produce positive behavioral outcomes, following the EFNEP regulatory guidelines, and insuring fiscal compliance of funding at the local level.