Food Stamps

Food Stamps




Food Stamps

The food stamp program began during the depression era. The purpose of the program was to increase peoples’ consumption of the agricultural products that were in surplus. Initially, the service was only available to individuals and groups in selected areas. It had begun in 1939 and had assisted about 4million people by 1943. The depression caused many economic problems and many people were in difficult financial position. There was a high rate of unemployment and many people did not have sufficient income. They could not afford to buy food and they depended on government support. The government discontinued with the program as the economy recovered. It was revived in early 1960s as a way of improving nutrition, while at the same time dealing with the surplus that had reduced the prices of food.

The idea behind the new program was to increase the consumption of perishable foods. This led to the development of the Food Stamp Act of 1964. The act made the food program permanent and the government was in a better position to control it. The law made it the responsibility of the government to ensure that poor families could afford nutritious food. The level of participation in the program had increased to 10 million by 1971. The government increased the number of people who could access the program. The cost of providing the food had increased. The increased participation in the program led to administration challenges. In 1971, congress made amendments to the 1964. The new amendments standardized eligibility, allotments, and purchase and work requirements. In addition, it extended the program to US territories (Urban Institute, 2013).

Later amendments to the legislations were made in 1977 and they ended the purchase requirements. The amendments put certain restrictions as they penalized those who quit their jobs and limited the eligibility for students and foreigners. In addition, there was an increase in the asset limit when determining eligibility and use of guidelines following the federal poverty level. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 increased limitations. It required annual adjustments of allotments, added retirement accounts as part of the asset, and added gross income in the eligibility test for those who wanted to participate in the program (Urban Institute, 2013). The introduction benefits card for the food stamps was a way of reducing fraud. The cards were introduced in 1980s. They increased enrolment and participation while at the same time helped to reduce the stigma associated with the paper coupons used for food stamps (Mercier, 2012).

The Hunger Prevention Act and the Hunger Relief Act of 1988 and 1989 expanded the program by increasing benefits and establishing grants on nutrition education. In addition, it required that the advance income tax credit be excluded from the income test. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 increased the number of people who were eligible for the program. Under the law, people who are not citizens can use the food stamps. In addition, the legislation increased the number of benefits for large families. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, which was established in 2008, changed the name of the policy to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Urban Institute, 2013).

The economic situation was a main determinant in the development of the policy. It continues to be a main influence regarding the direction that the government will take concerning the food stamp program. This is evidenced by the amendments in existing laws and implementation of new legislature, which call for expanding the program or putting more limitations on it though the additional eligibility criteria. The program first developed when the country was facing a major economic depression. The level of unemployment at the time was high. Farm commodity prices affected the development of the policy, especially in its early stages. The government initiated the program as a way of strengthening agriculture in the country. There was food surplus and this reduced the prices of food. To avoid further decreases, the government implemented the program and this stabilized the food prices.

The high increase of people participating in the program by 1980 had increased the federal budget considerably. In addition, the country was facing a recession at the time. This led to changes in legislation in 1981, which reduced government spending. However, as the economy improved in late 1980s, the government increased spending by expanding the program. The program often expands in periods of economic downturns. However, this does not mean that spending will necessarily decrease when the economy improves. There has been an increase in spending on the food stamp program since the current recession ended. In 2009, the number of people depending on food stamps had increased because of the recession. There was a high level of unemployment at the time and 38 million people used food stamps (Goodridge & DeParle, 2010).

Politics has influenced the development of the program over the years. In the 1960s, one of the major political campaign subjects was hunger. Politicians went round the country telling people how they would deal with it. In response to this, President Kennedy implemented a pilot project in 1961. This eventually led to the development of the Food Stamp Act. The Democratic Party took advantage of the food stamp act to secure votes (Wright et al., 2007). President Nixon used the same approach when he was campaigning. He was able to expand the program geographically and increase people’s participation. In addition to fulfilling their campaign promises, the leaders have to determine the effect of the food policy to the economy and the general wellbeing of the people. They are aware of the consequences of expanding the program. However, the prevailing economic situation in the country is usually the main determinant of the decisions that they make. When there are no jobs and there is inflation, the government has to continue offering benefits under the program since many people participate.

Social movements have been instrumental in the development of the policy. People hold demonstrations as a way of making their voices heard by the authorities. In many cases, the leaders recognize that they are in their respective positions because of the people. They listen to their concerns and help them solve the existing problems. There was unrest in the country in the 1960s, as people complained and demonstrated against different social ills including poverty and hunger. They protested against democratic inequities and discrimination. There were fourteen demonstration projects concerning food stamps in 1977 and 1981 (Mead, 2008). The government responded by improving social welfare. It expanded programs such as the food stamps, as a way of reducing the hunger problem. The people called for a reduction in prices of the food stamps and offering of free food stamps to families living in extreme poverty.

Ideology has been a main determinant in the development of the policy. People have different principles and they look at situations differently. While some leaders see the food program as a solution to the hunger problem facing many low-income families, others believe that the problem can be solved in other ways. Some leaders have called for increased spending, while others have suggested significant budget cuts in the program. Some of the leaders cite abuse as the main reason for decreasing the budget amount of the program. Spending increased from $17billion in the year 2000 to $78 billion in 2012 (Tanner, 2013). This shows the different levels of the leaders’ commitment to the program. However, it is a reflection that irrespective of the leaders’ sentiments towards the program, they still consider it a necessity towards solving the food problem in the country. People’s beliefs guide them when formulating policies. For instance, there was a decrease in the program participation in the mid 1990s. This compelled some states to change their laws to allow for easier accessibility. The changes enabled more people to participate in the program (Ratcliffe et al., 2007). The leaders could have found ways of ensuring that fewer people access the program. However, they opted to increase participation. This was influenced by their ideologies concerning poverty and hunger alleviation in their states.

The food stamp program has helped many low-income families by giving them a chance to get nutritive foods. Many people use the program to supplement their income. Many poor people have benefited because they have been able to use the money they could have spent on food for other necessities. The program has managed to decrease food insecurity over the years. Since the program began focusing on the nutritive content of food, it has managed to provide food with nutritional quality. People can get foods containing carbohydrates and proteins as well as sufficient amounts of minerals and vitamins. The program is not just aimed at providing food, but it has ensured that the food provided will benefit people’s health. However, the government should reconsider the benefits offered so that they can encourage people to increase their consumption of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetable (Mercier, 2012).

Despite the success achieved, the program has some limitations. It was originally meant to cater for the poor and low income families but this is no longer the case. Many people are getting food stamps irrespective of their economic status. Some are doing so even though they have jobs and they can afford to cater for their food expenses. This is putting an additional burden on the government (Tanner, 2013). The government spends a lot of money on the program, which could have been directed to other areas. However, this problem has occurred mainly because of government’s inability to monitor those who participate in the programs. The state governments have failed to trace and monitor fraud cases. There are many instances where ineligible people benefit from the program but the government has not been able to avoid or control this. In addition, people engage in fraud despite the introduction of the electronic card. They have found ways of exchanging the benefits they receive under the program for cash (Mercier, 2012).

The food stamp program was a good idea since its reintroduction in the sixties. The idea was to help alleviate hunger in many poor homes. The government’s decision to focus on the nutritional quality of food showed that it was committed to improve people’s health. It was not just looking for a way to handle the agricultural surplus, which was because of overproduction. However, the government relaxed its approach, especially on eligibility. The problem has become worse over the years, as many ineligible persons continue benefiting from the program. This has increased the cost of the program and government spending. The government’s effort to computerize the process has had little effect on the reduction of fraud cases. People continue finding ways of committing fraudulent activities. There is a need for the government to focus more on making the program more effective. Poor people should not suffer because they cannot get food stamps. The government needs to review the benefit it offers. The inflation experienced has increased the cost of food prices. Increasing the benefits will ensure that people can afford to get healthy food products. It also needs to establish stringent rules when deciding on people’s eligibility.








Goodridge, E., & DeParle, J. (2010, Feb. 11). The safety net: A history of food stamps use and policy. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Mead, M. L. (2008). Beyond entitlement. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster

Mercier, S. (2012). Review of U.S. nutrition assistance policy: Programs and issues. Retrieved from

Nixon, R. (2013, Dec.10). Political fight on farm aid and food stamps hits home in the delta. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Ratcliffe, C., McKernan, M. S., & Finegold, K., (2007). The effect of state food stamp and tanf policies on food stamp program participation. Retrieved from

Schimidt, S., Shelley, M., Bardes, B., & Ford, L. (2013). American government and politics today, 2013-2014 Edition. New York, NY: Cengage Learning

Scholz, K. J. (2010). Income Volatility and Implications for Food Assistance Programs: Special Issue of Journal of Human Resources 38:Supplement (2003). Madison, WI: Univ of Wisconsin Press

Tanner, D. M. (2013). SNAP failure: The food stamp program needs reform. Retrieved from

Urban Institute (2013). SNAP-legislative history. Retrieved from

Wright, C. G., Rieselbach, N. L., Dodd, C. L. (2007). Congress and policy change. New York, NY: Algora Publishing

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