History of the Supplemental
by Tori Penney
What is SNAP?
SNAP, or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance
Program, is a government-funded program
that's purpose is to provide food and nutrition
to those who cannot afford it on their own. It
was established in response to the Great
Depression in 1933, when many families could
not obtain their own food.
Agricultural Adjustment Act
May 16, 1933
SNAP began with the Agricultural
Adjustment Act, issued by FDR.
This act allowed the government to
buy surplus products and dispense
them through programs that fed
the needy. There was a large
surplus during this time because
no one could afford to buy food.
Agricultural Adjustment Act, continued
The total cost of this program was
$262 million dollars, and it was
used by 20 million people during
its first four years.
This program ended because there
were no more surplus foods, nor
was there an excess workforce,
meaning the purpose of the
program had been fulfilled.
Food Stamps Program
In 1939, the first food stamps program was
created, called the Food Stamps Plan. This was
a large part of the New Deal. It ended in 1943,
when economic growth spurred by WWII
decreased the amount of poor, hungry families.
Food Stamps Program, Continued
The Food Stamps Program consisted
of two kinds of stamps, orange and
blue. Orange stamps could buy
anything, such as matches, soap,
and starch, except alcohol, tobacco,
or food meant to be eaten within
the place it was purchased. Blue
stamps could only buy surplus
For every one dollar worth of orange
stamps, fifty cents worth of blue
stamps were provided.
Pilot Food Stamp Program (PL 88-525)
May 29, 1961 - 1964
Eighteen years later, the Pilot
Food Stamp Program began. Initiated
by John F. Kennedy, these stamps were
still purchased but there were no
longer surplus stamps. This program
focused more on perishables and less
on staple foods such as flour and sugar.
The first recipients, the Muncy family,
were members of Paynesville, West
Virginia. They purchased $95 worth of
stamps to put 15 servings worth of food
on the table. They bought a can of pork
Food Stamp Act of 1964
In this Act, the Food Stamp Program was made permanent. This bill was aimed at
increasing the nutrition of low-income people and strengthening U.S. agriculture.
The act chartered:
● Allowing the states to determine need
● The requirement to purchase the stamps
● Allowing people to purchase all foods except those which were imported or alcoholic
● Prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, political beliefs, or national origin
● Official divisions of responsibilities between states and the federal government
● First year costs limited to $75 million, the second year $100 million, the third $200
Participation Growth after Act of 1964
1970’s: Major Changes & Expansion
● P.L. 91-671 created standards of
● P.L. 93-86 required states to
expand the program to all
counties, and allowed drug
addicts and alcoholics that were
● P.L. 93-86 made the program
effective throughout the country
Food stamp act of 1977 (S. 275)
● Most importantly, eliminated purchase
requirement (like food stamps today)
● Got rid of categorical eligibility, requirement
that houses have cooking facilities
● Established eligibility at the poverty line
● Reduced the amount of deductions included in
computing net income
● Raised the limit to $1,750/household
● Penalized families whose head quit job
● Restricted eligibility for students & aliens
● Fraud Disqualification
● Also created many new and effective ways to
manage and apply for the program
Under President Reagan, major cuts were
made via these changes:
• More penalties for those who quit their
• State option to require recipients to
search for jobs
• Counting retirement accounts as
• Looking at gross income rather than just
• More adjustment periods
1984- EBT starts (Electronic Benefits
• Increased max benefits to $2000
• Elimination of sales tax on food
• Eligibility for homeless
• Creating nutrition education
• Simplifying procedures to
determine eligibility and
• Expanding EBT
Due to the increasing amount of
hungry Americans, a large amount
of funding was reinstated.
• Elimination of Shelter Deduction Cap
• Establishing deductions for those who
owe legally required child support
• Raising the amount of money allotted
• Expansion of EBT
During the 2000’s, SNAP
gained a significant
amount of participants.
From 2000-2008, many changes were made. Eligibility was given to minors and immigrants. EBT cards
totally replaced stamps. These cards helped limit fraud, increase efficiency, and allow participants to
purchase without stigma.
EBT is used in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.
Plastic Card, With money alloted once a month. PIN
Benefits can now buy
Some food at qualified restaurants if you are disabled, homeless, or elderly.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, food stamps
was renamed to SNAP, or
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Lately, legislators have been focusing
more on nutrition and allotting
SNAP funds to healthy purchases.
Proposed ideas have been to ban
soft drinks, sweets, and frozen
14% of the U.S. population benefits
from SNAP (Thats more than 45
The number of Americans
on food stamps went up
by more than 80 percent
between 2007 and 2013.
On average, $4.39 a day is
awarded per recipient
“A Short History of SNAP.” United State Deparemnt of Agriculture: Food and Nutrition Service. November 20, 2013.
Anderson, Kelly. “Food Stamps in the US.” Intuit. https://www.mint.com/food-stamps-in-the-u-s/
James, Randy. “Food Stamps: More Americans Relying on Uncle Sam to Eat.” TIME. September 14th, 2009.
“SNAP/Food Stamps.” Food Research and Action Center. http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/snapfood-
Stiglitz, Joseph. “The Insanity of Our Food Policy. The New York Times. November 16th, 2013.
“The History of SNAP.” The Atena Foundation and the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. 2014.
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