The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Mrs. Mabel McFiggan was the first person in the United States to make a purchase using food stamps. Now, over half a century later, millions of enrollees across the country utilize benefits. By enrolling in this program, qualifying candidates are able to purchase healthy foods they may not have been able to otherwise afford.
Currently referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the national food stamps benefits program has undergone various amendments in past decades. The goal was to keep the program relevant to current times and in touch with contemporary financial challenges households face. However, the program’s mission has remained unchanged: To increase food access and security throughout the nation, especially among children and throughout low-income communities.
An Overview of Food Stamps
Before it became known as SNAP food benefits, this public benefits initiative was called the Food Stamp Program. Regardless, food stamps benefits were formally introduced as a national concept in 1961. Former President John F. Kennedy was responsible for signing an executive order that began the country’s first formal version of a food stamps program.
In 1964, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act. This legislation made permanent the Food Stamp Program Kennedy initiated three years prior. Within 10 years, food assistance benefits were available in every corner of the United States. However, the program was very different from what recipients experience today. Before the Food Stamp Act of 1977, enrollees were required to purchase their food stamps before they could use them. This greatly influenced who could and could not enroll in the program. This act also:
- Eliminated penalties for candidates whose heads of household quit their jobs.
- Established poverty line income eligibility requirements.
- Required stores that accepted benefits to sell a large amount of staple diet foods.
Another great change to the program came in 2004, when the nation officially decided to use Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) to distribute funds. This change streamlined the distribution process, allowing enrollees to receive their benefits as soon as they became available.