Why are Food Stamps Necessary?

The history of SNAP starts at the time of the Great Depression when many people were left financially helpless. Families struggled to buy enough food, least of all, fresh and delicious. Finally, in April 1939, the first food stamp program was initiated in Rochester to alleviate some of the financial burden for families on a tight budget and compromising on food. Participants of the food stamp program bought orange stamps which allowed them to obtain any food item. Then, they received half the purchase amount in blue stamps which could be exchanged for certain surplus commodities.

The program grew to support four million Americans from the East Coast to the West Coast and existed in every state except for West Virginia. However, the food stamp program came to a stop on March 1st, 1943 when the program was deemed unnecessary anymore as the widespread unemployment of the Great Depression began to lessen. The food stamp program did not reappear until 1961, when President John F. Kennedy’s first executive order enforced a redux. Later, the program went national as President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into legislation. The federal government agreed to finance the benefits. Meanwhile, the states funded the costs incurred by the program.

Later on, in 1969, the media shined the spotlight on “Hunger in America,” a CBS special news report that showed whites in Virginia, blacks in Alabama, Navajos in Arizona, and Latinos in Texas in desperation due to their hunger.  Politicians were urged to push for more generous nutrition programs. By September of 1977, poor families were no longer required to purchase stamps in order to participate in the program.

Due to the 1990s recession, there was another increase in the amount of food stamp rolls available. By 1994, 27 million people in the nation used food stamps. This increase proved too much to bear for the Republicans in office at that time. Notable politicians, President Bill Clinton and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, slashed the welfare budget and implemented eligibility guidelines using time limits, work experience, and citizenship requirements.

During President George Bush’s Administration, the food stamp program was shown unexpected government support when a law was passed restoring eligibility to immigrants, raising benefits, and giving bonuses to states that enrolled the greatest share of eligible people. It was also during this time that food stamps took on the more modern and discrete approach of using electronic benefit cards. Finally, in June of 2008, President Bush renamed the food stamp program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP,” as it is known today.

As history has shown, food stamps have been critical during times of economic hardship and accordingly diminished during times of economic prosperity. In the current economic state, SNAP benefits help bridge the the budget gap for families who have fallen under unfavorable circumstances. No one aspires to fall within the income bracket necessary to qualify for food stamps. However, when applicants are eligible, the social welfare serves as a pivotal aid to their budget.

Even withholding consideration of the economy and ignoring the poverty problem in the US, food stamps are still necessary. SNAP benefits can be obtained in as quickly as five days. This special emergency allocation of SNAP funds is called Expedited Processing. If expedited processing applicants meet the necessary criteria, an interview will be scheduled within two days to evaluate their extended qualifications. After each natural disaster attack, from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, expedited food stamp processing for replacement benefits and extended benefits are implemented. This line of action is extremely applicable to droughts and floods as well, the September 2013 Colorado floods, the May 2013 Oklahoma tornadoes, and the 2013 Louisiana hurricane season to name a few of the most recent. In the following page, “How do Food Stamps Help Immigrants,” the effect of SNAP on NYC immigrants will be more thoroughly delved into.

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