History of SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the overarching federal program aimed at addressing hunger in America. It was previously known as the Food Stamp Program.

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  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers an address to a Joint Session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941. Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration.

    On May 12, FDR signs the New Deal-era Agricultural Adjustment Act in response to crop prices plummeting as a result of the Great Depression. Through the resulting program, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, the federal government buys food from farmers at discount prices. That food is then distributed to food banks and hunger-relief charities across the country. (Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration)

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Photo by Elias Goldensky/Wikimedia Commons.

    On May 16, the United States Department of Agriculture administers the first food stamp program to aid those who suffering from hunger as a result of the Great Depression. The program began in Rochester, N.Y., and grew to serve nearly 4 million Americans in every state except West Virginia. (Photo by Elias Goldensky/Wikimedia Commons)

  • In Spring, 1943, the first food stamp program ends as “the conditions that brought the program into being – unmarketable food surpluses and widespread unemployment – no longer existed.”

  • President Kennedy in 1961. Photo by Robert L. Knudsen/Wikimedia Commons

    On January 20, acting on a campaign promise, President Kennedy signs an executive order implementing a pilot food stamp program. Participants once again receive stamps, but they are not limited to purchasing surplus food. The stamps are worth more than they cost – enabling participants to buy more food than they could otherwise afford. (Photo by Robert L. Knudsen/Wikimedia Commons)

  • 380,000 people in 22 states participate in the pilot food stamp program.

  • President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Photo by Cecil Stoughton/Wikimedia Commons

    On August 31, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Food Stamp Act of 1964 as part of his “Great Society” package of legislation. The Act codifies the earlier food stamp pilot into the national Food Stamp Program. Participants continue to purchase stamps for food at a discount rate and received “bonuses” tied to income levels. (Photo by Cecil Stoughton/Wikimedia Commons)

  • More than 1 million people participate in the Food Stamp Program.

  • The Food Stamp Program is now operating in every state. 14 million people are enrolled.

  • President Jimmy Carter White House Portrait. Photo by Official White House Photograph/Wikimedia Commons

    On September 29, President Jimmy Carter signs the Food Stamp Act of 1977 into law as part of the 1977 farm bill. The act amends the Food Stamp Act of 1964 and is designed to streamline the program. Among other provisions, participants are no longer required to purchase food stamps at a reduced rate. They instead receive stamps directly from their state governments. This is known as the “elimination of the purchase requirement,” or EPR. (Photo by Official White House Photograph/Wikimedia Commons)

  • EPR goes into effect. More than 17 million people are enrolled in the Food Stamp Program.

  • More than 21 million people are enrolled in the Food Stamp Program.

  • President Ronald Reagan. Photo by Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

    On August 31, Congress and the Reagan administration implement reforms and new regulations designed to lessen the annual cost of the Food Stamp Program. Without these cuts, Food Stamp Program funding was estimated to be $11.8 billion in fiscal year 1983. With them, food stamp funding is $9.6 billion. The reduction in funding is “associated with a subsequent rise in hunger in America during the 1980s,” according to the Aetna Foundation. (Photo by Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)

  • In 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS) issued some of the first Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in the state of Maryland. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

    The USDA begins a pilot program for Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). Rather than receiving stamps in the mail, the benefits of pilot program participants were transferred to an EBT card, similar to a credit or debit card. The program is designed to improve efficiency in the Food Stamp Program and reduce the stigma faced by participants paying for food with the now-iconic and highly visible paper food stamps. (Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

  • More than 20 million people are enrolled in the Food Stamp Program.

  • On November 28, Congress formally authorizes EBT as an alternative to food stamp issuance.

  • President Bill Clinton in 1993. Photo by Bob McNeely, The White House/Wikimedia Commons

    On August 10, President Bill Clinton signs into law the Mickey Leland Childhood Hunger Relief Act, amending the 1977 farm bill. The legislation expands the Food Stamp Program by $2.8 billion in benefits compared to spending between Fiscal Years 1984-1988. (Photo by Bob McNeely, The White House/Wikimedia Commons)

  • More than 26 million people are enrolled in the Food Stamp Program.

  • President Bill Clinton in 1996. Photo by U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

    On August 22, President Bill Clinton signs into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, commonly referred to as “welfare reform,” enacting stricter rules for food stamp eligibility. The Act also mandates that states implement EBT systems and phase out food stamps by Oct. 1, 2002. (Photo by U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

  • Food Stamp Program enrollment plummets as a result of “stricter rules and a booming economy.” More than 25 million people participate in the program in 1996, compared to slightly more than 17 million in 2000.

  • President George W. Bush Portrait. Photo by Eric Draper, White House/Wikimedia Commons

    On May 13, President Bush signs the 2002 farm bill into law, expanding Food Stamp Program eligibility in addition to allowing legal immigrants to apply for benefits. (Photo by Eric Draper, White House/Wikimedia Commons)

  • EBT is now accepted in all states, representing the final phase-out of paper stamps.

  • More than 25 million people are enrolled in the Food Stamp Program, reflecting expansions brought about by the 2002 farm bill, rising unemployment, stagnating wages and other economic factors.

  • President George W. Bush in 2008. Photo by Chris Greenberg/Wikimedia Commons

    On May 22, President Bush signs the 2008 farm bill into law. The bill formally renames the Food Stamp Program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reflecting on a new focus on nutrition and healthy food. All references to “stamp” or “coupon” in federal law are replaced with “card” or “EBT.” More than 28 million Americans are enrolled in SNAP. (Photo by Chris Greenberg/Wikimedia Commons)

  • President Barack Obama in 2009. Photo by PO1 Leah Stiles, U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

    On February 17, President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus, into law. The bill is aimed at softening the impact of the recent recession among the American people, and, according to the USDA, included a temporary $45.2 billion boost to SNAP funding that began trickling out to recipients in April 2009. (Photo by PO1 Leah Stiles, U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

  • More than 40 million people participate in SNAP, reflecting increased enrollment flowing from unemployment and lost wages associated with the Great Recession.

  • More than 47 million people participate in SNAP, an all-time high.

  • On November 1, The recovery act’s boost to SNAP expires, leading to a $5 billion cut to benefits overall. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, households with one member lose $11 in monthly benefits, those with two members lose $20, those with three members lose $29 and those with four members lose $36 dollars.

  • President Barack Obama in 2014. Photo by Tom Witham, USDA/Flickr

    On February 4, President Obama signs the 2014 farm bill into law. The Act carries with it $8.6 billion in reductions to SNAP benefits over the next decade, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. (Photo by Tom Witham, USDA/Flickr)

  • Today, several states use a loophole in the farm bill to stave off reductions in residents’ SNAP benefits.  As of April 4, 2014, nearly 47 million Americans participate in the SNAP program, receiving nearly $24 billion in benefits.