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 »
Everyone wants to save money at the grocery store, especially those on a tight budget. The new Healthy Eating on a Budget section of ChooseMyPlate.gov empowers cost-conscious consumers to make healthy choices with insightful information about meal planning, smart shopping ideas, and creating healthy meals with simple ingredients. Web-based trends indicate that consumers continue to look for information about how to make better eating decisions with limited resources. Healthy Eating on a Budget offers a step-by-step game plan to help families save money and make nutritious meals at home.
Recent scores from the USDA Healthy Eating Index indicate that Americans can struggle to meet recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most of us need to increase our intake of whole fruit, dark-green and orange vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Cost is often considered a barrier to eating healthier and the new resource will help consumers overcome this perception. Read more »
More than 4,200 markets and direct marketing farmers now redeem SNAP benefits across the country. Farmers’ market incentive programs, which couple access to healthy foods with incentives to purchase healthy products while at the market, help SNAP recipients consume a healthy diet.
As spring marches closer, farmers markets across the country are ramping up or reopening for the season. In addition to year-round staples like local milk, meat, and grains, the stars of the season—asparagus, onions, new potatoes, lamb, and greens of all varieties—are beginning to make their debuts. In a few months’ time, the markets will be in full swing, bursting with berries and zucchini and other summer fruits and vegetables. Here at USDA, we’re working hard to ensure participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have access to this healthful, local bounty.
Remarkable progress has been made in providing better access to the nation’s 8,200 farmers markets and farm stands; more than 4,200 markets and direct marketing farmers now redeem SNAP benefits. Beyond providing heightened access to farmers markets, we know that coupling access with incentives to purchase healthy products while at the market helps SNAP recipients consume a healthy diet. A new report from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service makes clear that private sector organizations share the goal of increasing access and incentives, and are willing to dedicate financial resources to ensuring the success of this approach. Researchers for the Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study interviewed representatives from more than 100 organizations that provide financial incentives to SNAP participants redeeming their benefits at farmers markets. Wholesome Wave is a great example of a not-for-profit organization that partners with 305 farmers markets in 24 states with nutrition incentive programs for doubling SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market vouchers at farmers markets. Read more »
Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.
America’s farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, and at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we’ve made it a priority to expand healthy food access through farmers’ markets to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a win-win situation because, for farmers markets, the ability to accept SNAP benefits is a great way to build their customer base, which helps generate more sales and nourish the economy in our rural communities.
As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I place a high value on partnerships because, working together, we can achieve more toward shared goals than by working alone. The USDA recently contracted with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), in an effort to enhance the participation of farmers and farmers markets in SNAP. And out of that innovative partnership, I am excited to announce MarketLink, a new way for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers to get authorized as SNAP vendors and get the equipment they need to accept SNAP benefits. Read more »
About midway through USDA’s 150-year history, federal officials decided that economic research and analysis could be a valuable, objective tool in helping farmers – and policymakers – grapple with farm price and income issues. In 1922, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) – predecessor agency of USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) – came into existence. The Bureau began regularly producing agricultural market outlook reports (still an ERS staple), and – not surprisingly – its early work included analysis of agricultural policy impacts during the Great Depression.
Employees of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (circa 1930), predecessor agency of the Economic Research Service.
Although the BAE’s functions were dispersed throughout the Department in the 1950s, they were assembled again into a single agency, the Economic Research Service, in 1961. I’ll touch on just a few highlights of ERS activities that illustrate the value of our agency’s work over the past century. Read more »