A collection of stamps and coupons from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Programs. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.
This fall, USDA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which made the Food Stamp Program permanent. In looking back over the past 50 years, there are two notable events in the program’s history that had a significant impact on the transformation of the original Food Stamp Program in 1964 to the program we know today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
First, the Food Stamp Act of 1977 was a major program milestone, because it established national eligibility standards for participation and eliminated the purchase requirement for food stamps. The new standards meant that the amount of benefits a household received depended on the household’s size, income, and expenses, a standard that remains today. The elimination of the purchase requirement meant that people received their benefits upfront, without the intermediary step of purchasing the food stamp first. The Food Stamp Act of 1977, therefore, removed a major barrier to participation in the program while also ensuring that benefits would be targeted to those most in need. As a result, the mission of the Food Stamp Program to mitigate the effects of poverty was strengthened. Read more »
President Johnson signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964.
On August 31, 1964, President Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 as a centerpiece of his War on Poverty, which introduced numerous programs designed to improve the American quality of life for those struggling to make ends meet. Due to the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Program, now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), became permanent. This action and others, such as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (a program celebrating 40 years this year), resulted in marked improvement in the diets of the poor during the late 1960 and into the mid 1970s. Media and public leaders like Robert Kennedy, Senator Robert Dole and Senator George McGovern shone a light on areas of America where hunger and malnutrition had previously been easy to miss, such as crowded urban centers and the tranquil rural countryside, and the programs responded. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
To help those in need make ends meet, the Federal Government offers a variety of assistance programs. Some provide cash, but more offer in-kind assistance such as subsidized rents or assistance with home energy bills. USDA provides eligible households with in-kind assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits to buy groceries (formerly called the Food Stamp Program). But these benefits, and other in-kind assistance, are not counted as income when the Census Bureau calculates official poverty rates. Not accounting for these benefits understates the resources of U.S. families who receive them and masks the greater relative hardship of those who do not. Read more »