Forty-eight years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 into law, signaling the start of what we now know as food stamps. The law “[a]uthorized a food stamp program to permit low income households to receive ‘a greater share of the Nation's food abundance’.” Over the past 48 years, the program (which is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) has been a fundamental bulwark for the poorest and hungriest people in our nation.
In his remarks on signing the Act, President Johnson said: “I believe the Food Stamp Act weds the best of the humanitarian instincts of the American people with the best of the free enterprise system. Instead of establishing a duplicate public system to distribute food surplus to the needy, this act permits us to use our highly efficient commercial food distribution system.”
Improvements made over the past forty-eight years have only expanded its reach. SNAP has been there for people when they needed help the most -- in times of economic downturns and natural disasters. It’s a program that has helped millions weather challenging times.
Journalist Daniel Schorr noted that the conscience of the nation could be seen in the history of food stamps. Efforts to strengthen the program have helped millions put food on the table. Cuts, such as those proposed in the House Agriculture Committee and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, would particularly harm the most vulnerable in our society -- seniors, children and working families – and would be morally reprehensible.
SNAP works. Tell Congress to keep it strong.