In an op-ed in The Atlantic today, columnist and American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norm Ornstein looks back 40 years to the 1977 Food Stamp Act that established the modern framework of the food stamp program, now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Ornstein notes that:
Its passage was a model of how to make constructive and important legislation, finding common ground by making tradeoffs across all the usual boundaries. In this case, the key players included George McGovern and Bob Dole, Tom Foley and Shirley Chisholm, among others.
He goes on to explain the tremendous impact that model of bipartisan cooperation had on the problem of hunger in the United States:
SNAP has dramatically reduced the problems of dire hunger, at least providing a kind of lifeline for millions of Americans — and not just those who do not work. In fact, 81 percent of SNAP benefits go to those who are working or to those we do not expect to work — children, the elderly, the disabled. In other words, SNAP benefits the most vulnerable among us, especially those in dire poverty. It is one of the most successful programs we have had in our social safety net.
We've also been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Food Stamp Act. SNAP has grown into one of the most effective and efficient anti-hunger tools we have, and has been shown to have long-term benefits as well.
You can watch this video on the anniversary, or read CBPP president Robert Greenstein's memories of working on the Act in this commentary.