When Did Food Stamps Come Out

The concept of food stamps came into being during the Great Depression era in the United States as a means to support struggling families and individuals. In May 1939, the Food Stamp Plan was introduced as part of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. However, it was not until 1961 that the program gained its modern form. President John F. Kennedy signed the Food Stamp Act into law, establishing a permanent food assistance program for low-income households. The Food Stamp Act aimed to expand the program’s reach and improve its efficiency in providing food aid to those in need.

History of the Food Stamp Program

The Food Stamp Program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has a long and storied history in the United States.


  • The program began in the 1930s as a way to help farmers who were struggling to sell their crops during the Great Depression.
  • The government purchased surplus food from farmers and distributed it to needy families.
  • In 1939, the Food Stamp Program was正式established as a permanent program.


  • In the 1960s, the Food Stamp Program was expanded to include more low-income families.
  • In 1974, the program was made permanent.
  • In 1977, the program was renamed the Food Stamp Program.

Recent Changes

  • In 2008, the Food Stamp Program was renamed again to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • In 2013, the program was reauthorized with a number of changes, including stricter eligibility requirements.
  • In 2018, the Trump administration proposed a number of changes to the program, including work requirements and a reduction in benefits.

The Food Stamp Program has been a controversial program since its inception. Critics argue that it is too expensive and that it discourages people from working.

However, supporters of the program argue that it is essential for helping low-income families put food on the table. They point out that the program has helped to reduce hunger and improve nutrition among low-income families.

SNAP Participation and Benefits
YearParticipants (millions)Average Monthly Benefit ($/person)

The Great Depression and the Rise of Food Stamps

The Great Depression was a devastating worldwide financial meltdown spanning the 1930s. The consequences were far-reaching, affecting economies, societies, and governments around the globe. Among the most severe impacts was a surge in poverty and hunger, which led to the establishment of food assistance programs around the world.

The Great Depression

  • Start: Late 1920s
  • End: Mid-1930s
  • Duration: Almost a decade

During the Great Depression, numerous individuals lost their jobs due to widespread business closures, resulting in a sharp rise in unemployment rates.

Surge in Poverty and Hunger

The worldwide financial crisis had several key characteristics:

  • Rapid Economic Collapse: Economies experienced a sudden and steep downturn in activity, leading to widespread business failures and job losses.
  • Banking Crises: Many banks collapsed due to a loss of confidence in the financial system, disrupting the flow of credit and leading to a scarcity of money.
  • Global Impact: The crisis affected nearly every nation, with few exceptions.
  • Prolonged Depression: The economic slump lasted for an extended period, causing severe hardship for individuals and communities.

The consequences of the Great Depression were extensive and severe, including:

  • High Unemployment: Joblessness soared to unprecedented levels, leaving millions without work and income.
  • Reduced Spending: As people lost their jobs and incomes, consumer spending plummeted, further exacerbating the economic downturn.
  • Poverty and Hunger: The combination of joblessness, reduced spending, and disruptions to food supply chains resulted in widespread poverty and hunger.

The Great Depression highlighted the need for government intervention to address the economic crisis and its devastating social impacts. One critical measure taken in response was the establishment of food assistance programs to combat poverty and hunger.

The Rise of Food Stamps

In the United States, the New Deal introduced various programs to combat the Great Depression, including the establishment of the Food Stamp Program in 1939.

The Food Stamp Program was designed to provide a safety net for low-income families and individuals, enabling them to purchase nutritious food at participating stores. The program has undergone significant changes and expansions over the years to address evolving needs and challenges.

YearSignificant Milestones
1939Food Stamp Program established as part of the New Deal
1961Pilot program launched to test the viability of issuing food stamps to eligible households
1964Food Stamp Act of 1964 establishes the Food Stamp Program on a permanent basis
1977Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) created within the USDA to oversee the administration of the Food Stamp Program
1980sExpansion of the Food Stamp Program to include additional categories of eligible households
1990sImplementation of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems for the distribution of food stamps
2018Food Stamp Program renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Today, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continues to play a vital role in providing food assistance to low-income households, helping millions of Americans access nutritious food and improve their overall well-being.

The History of Food Stamps

The Food Stamp Program is a federal assistance program in the United States that provides food-purchasing assistance to low- and no-income households. The program was created in 1961 and has been expanded several times since then. Today, the Food Stamp Program serves over 40 million people each month.

The Expansion of Food Stamps in the 1960s

The Food Stamp Program was expanded significantly in the 1960s. In 1964, the program was made permanent, and in 1967, the program was expanded to include all low-income households, regardless of whether they had children. These expansions led to a dramatic increase in the number of people participating in the program, from 3 million in 1964 to 15 million in 1970.

Factors Contributing to the Expansion of Food Stamps in the 1960s

  • The Civil Rights Movement: The Civil Rights Movement helped to raise awareness of poverty and hunger in the United States. This led to increased support for programs like the Food Stamp Program, which were seen as a way to address these problems.
  • The War on Poverty: President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty was a major effort to reduce poverty in the United States. The Food Stamp Program was one of many programs created as part of the War on Poverty.
  • Economic Conditions: The 1960s was a period of economic growth and prosperity in the United States. However, this growth did not benefit all Americans. The Food Stamp Program helped to provide food assistance to those who were struggling to make ends meet.

Impact of the Expansion of Food Stamps in the 1960s

The expansion of the Food Stamp Program in the 1960s had a significant impact on the lives of low-income Americans. The program helped to reduce hunger and poverty, and it improved the overall health and well-being of millions of people.

Table: Number of Food Stamp Participants, 1964-1970

YearNumber of Participants
19643 million
19654 million
19666 million
196710 million
196812 million
196914 million
197015 million

Beginning of the Food Stamp Program

In 1939, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched the Food Stamp Program as a temporary intervention to combat the Great Depression’s severe economic effects. The program was initially intended to enhance agricultural production and stabilize farm income by providing farmers with a market for their surplus commodities.

Evolution of the Food Stamp Program

Over the years, the Food Stamp Program has undergone significant changes and expansions.

  • 1961: The Food Stamp Act of 1961 was enacted, making the Food Stamp Program a permanent federal initiative. It expanded eligibility to families with children and households receiving public assistance, among others.
  • 1977: The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) was established within the USDA to administer the expanding food assistance programs, including the Food Stamp Program.
  • 1990-1995: The Food Stamp Program underwent comprehensive reforms, including the replacement of paper coupons with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, implementation of work requirements for able-bodied adults, and stricter income and asset limits.
  • 2008: The name “Food Stamp Program” was officially changed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.

SNAP Today

Today, SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the United States, providing food benefits to low-income individuals and families.

Eligibility: To be eligible for SNAP, households must meet certain income and asset limits and demonstrate financial need.

Benefits: SNAP benefits are provided electronically through EBT cards, which can be used to purchase eligible food items at authorized retailers.

Benefits Calculation: The amount of SNAP benefits a household receives is determined based on household size, income, and certain expenses. Benefits are adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living.

SNAP Program Facts and Figures

The following facts and figures provide a snapshot of the SNAP program today:

YearNumber of SNAP Participants (in millions)Total SNAP Benefits (in billions)


The Food Stamp Program, now known as SNAP, has evolved significantly since its inception in 1939. It continues to be a critical resource for low-income individuals and families, providing access to nutritious food and promoting food security in the United States.

Thanks for sticking with me until the end! Hopefully, you now have a good grasp of the history of food stamps and how they’ve evolved over the years. If you’re curious for me to dig into more topics like this, drop a suggestion in the comments below. In the meantime, keep an eye out for my next article, where I’ll be exploring [topic of next article]. Until then, take care and remember to nourish your body and soul with delicious food!