Jonah McCoy


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. FNS also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program integrity.

Step 1: Recognizing the problem / setting the agenda

In the 60s, farmers were producing too much food and driving down the price while low income workers struggled to feed their growing families. During his campaign, Kennedy met and talked with many poor workers across the country. Realizing that poverty and undernourishment was a larger problem in the U.S. then expected, Kennedy set out to change that.
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Step 2: Formulating the policy

In 1961, the Food Stamp Program was reintroduced by President John F. Kennedy through food stamp pilot programs in several states. Prominent U.S. Senators actively associated with attempts to enact a food stamp program included George Aiken, Robert M. La Follette, Jr., Hubert Humphrey, Estes Kefauver, and Stuart Symington. In 1964 Isabelle Kelley, who was part of the four-person team that designed the new program, became its first director and the first woman in USDA to head an action program.

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Step 3: Adopting the policy

One of Kennedy's first executive orders once in office was that the food stamp pilot programs would be initiated. However it was only a few programs that only a few states adopted. Unfortunately Kennedy was killed in 1963 before he could get his goal fully accomplished. On January 31, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson requested congress to make the food stamp program permanent. The U.S. congress signed the bill into law creating the Food Stamps Act on August 31, 1964.
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Step 4: Implementing the policy

The Food Stamp Program required the purchase of “stamps” or coupons at benefit levels similar to what a household would normally allot to food expenditures. A “bonus” amount, which was determined based on a participant’s income level, was awarded to enable the purchase of a low-cost nutritionally adequate diet as defined by the Economy Food Plan. The federal government funded the program and licensed retailers, while the states authorized applications for food stamps and distributed the benefits. Mr. and Mrs. Alderson Muncy of Paynesville, West Virginia, were the first food stamp recipients on May 29, 1961. They purchased $95 worth of food using food stamps for their 15-person household.

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Step 5: Evaluating the policy

Despite the phenomenal growth, the need proved to be greater. In 1968, CBS news aired a documentary titled "Hunger in America" that found severe cases of malnutrition in kids. That program caught the attention of Democratic Sen. George McGovern and Republican Sen. Bob Dole. They got the Senate to form a special committee to study the system. Finally, in 1977, a major revision was pushed through with the support of President Jimmie Carter. The 1977 program finally allowed the poorest of the poor to be given food stamps instead of having to pay for them. The program greatly expanded the number of people who were eligible while still cracking down on fraud. Major revisions were made to the program in the Food Stamp Act of 1977, including the establishment of uniform national standards of eligibility, the expansion of the program to minority communities, more federal support for the implementation of the program at the state level, and restricted access to benefits for students enrolled in a university.

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