Happy 40th, SNAP! Celebrating Four Decades of Effective Nutrition Assistance

September 29, 2017 | 9:50 am
Photo: public domain
Sarah Reinhardt
Former Contributor

Happy birthday to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as we know it!

SNAP, it’s hard to believe it was only 40 years ago that President Carter made you into a better, stronger safety net by signing the Food Stamp Act of 1977. Of course, you’re grown now, and you know it takes more than one person to make a law. You were really born out of the hard work and bipartisanship of Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole—two legislators who loved effective anti-hunger legislation very, very much, and who improved the Food Stamp Act of 1964 by eliminating required payments for food stamp users and fine-tuning eligibility.

Naturally, some things have changed over 40 years

Like your name. You went through that phase where everybody called you “food stamps,” and we supported you, but “SNAP” really does suit you better.

You’ve also seen a host of changes come and go related to program eligibility, work requirements, and nutrition education funding—many of which continue to be subjects of debate.

And technology keeps barreling forward. You’ve seen the amazing things it can do—watching as schools handily adopt data matching technologies you’d never dreamed of having—and some days you feel like you’re getting the hang of it, like when you finally transitioned from paper stamps to an electronic benefit system. (Other days you’re calling your daughter-in-law because you once saw her set up a Roku in ten minutes and boy could you use her help with this.)

But some things have stayed the same

You’ve been there for the American people, unfailingly, through all the ups and downs of economic recovery and recession, changes in administration and leadership, and even that time Representative Steve King said that mean and totally untrue thing about you right to your face. (Sorry again. No one likes him, if that makes you feel better.)

You were there when the 2008 recession hit and 2.6 million Americans lost their jobs—many unexpectedly—and in the years that followed, as “middle-class” jobs became harder and harder to come by and people really needed you for a while.

And even now, amid the devastation of hurricanes and flooding, you are providing food to those who desperately need it through the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Despite what people say, you’re not just a program for “the poor.” You’re a program for all of us, because we are all vulnerable to the unexpected, economic crises and natural disasters included, and you understand that.

The best thing about getting older?

Take it from an organization that hit 40 a few years ago—the best thing about getting another year older is realizing that the people you’ve supported, through thick and thin, are here to support you too.

And one of the best things about the farm bill is that it gives us a chance to do just that.

On behalf of the 21 million American households you serve, and the millions more who know you’ll be there when they need you: Happy Birthday, SNAP.