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 »
USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.
USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.
One example of how USDA has been working to implement this cultural shift is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) project that was recently conducted in Massachusetts. The goal of this project was to provide SNAP participants greater access to healthy foods and better nutrition through financial incentives at the point of purchase. Specifically, we tested the impact of providing families with 30 extra cents in SNAP benefits per benefit dollar that they spent on fruits and vegetables. We were very encouraged by the results. On average, people who received the incentives ate about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives—a substantial increase! Read more »
Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."
“How many of you like vegetables?” The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses. But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight. A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit. A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite. The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.
Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables. Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce. The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »
Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.
Earlier this month, USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week to highlight the healthy offerings they provide American families. The department invests in farmers markets in a myriad of ways – from helping farmers develop their products for markets, to enriching children’s bodies and minds through the “farm to school” program. In fact, there are more than 8,000 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and more than 5,000 farm stands and farmers markets across the nation are accepting SNAP benefits.
During the month, I had a chance to speak with Lt. Col. Eric Smith, commander of Fort Meade’s (Md.) Headquarters Command Battalion. We discussed USDA’s partnership with the Department of Defense and supporting the Healthy Base Initiative through FNS programs. DoD’s Healthy Base Initiative works to improve the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use. Currently, 14 military installations participate in a pilot to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles. Fort Meade is one of them. Read more »
The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.
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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Achieving a good diet requires access to nutritious food, but it also requires good choices from among the many thousands of products available at grocery stores and other food retailers – a real challenge for consumers. How can we shape a store environment that makes healthy choices easier?
Researchers working with the Food and Nutrition Service recently conducted a thought experiment to encourage healthy purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The researchers asked a number of leading experts to imagine a labeling system in place that clearly identifies the healthiest options in the stores, and develop strategies to promote them, especially for shoppers with limited resources. The strategies had to be feasible, sustainable, cost-effective, and appealing to all stakeholders: food manufacturers, food retailers, and consumers. The study team first identified key characteristics of labeling systems — including the need to inform consumers without requiring complex interpretation, and to align with retailers’ and manufacturers’ competitive strategies and business practices. Read more »