Food Stamp Plan
Significance: Because of widespread unemployment during the Great Depression, many families in the United States were unable to buy enough food. The Food Stamp Plan increased the purchasing power of these families and reduced the agricultural surplus, thereby stimulating the economy.
The Food Stamp Plan of 1939 began during the Great Depression under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was part of the New Deal program called the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation and its first administrator was Milo Perkins. The federally funded program was operated by each state through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program issued orange and blue stamps that people could purchase. For each dollar of orange stamps purchased, a person would receive 50 cents worth of blue stamps. People could buy any type of food with the orange stamps but only food that the USDA deemed surplus with the blue stamps.
The Food Stamp Plan was meant both to ease hunger and to provide a market for surplus farm products. The plan was in operation for four years and helped millions of people at its peak. Because of other New Deal programs, which provided jobs for many Americans, and the United States’ entrance into World War II, the Food Stamp Plan ended in the spring of 1943. However, the 1939 plan became the foundation for the later Food Stamp Program. Studies, reports, and proposed legislation for a new program followed the plan’s end in 1943. A pilot program was initiated in 1961, under the administration of President John F. Kennedy. In this pilot program, food stamps were still purchased; however, surplus foods were no longer part of the program.
DeLorme, Charles D., Jr., David R. Kamerschen, and David C. Redman. “The First U.S. Food Stamp Program: An Example of Rent Seeking and Avoiding.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 51, no. 4 (October, 1992): 421-433.
Landers, Patti S. “The Food Stamp Program: History, Education, and Impact.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107, no. 11 (November, 2007): 1945-1952.
Poppendieck, Janet. Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986.
See also: agriculture; farm subsidies; government spending.