Hillary Hoynes gave a departmental seminar at Berkeley a few weeks ago and mentioned an interesting historical anecdote about the food stamp program. Apparently, JFK came back from a campaign visit to Appalachia and was so disturbed by what he saw that he initiated the food stamp pilot program with his first executive order.
Here’s a bit more detail from one of her papers on this:
The roots of today’s Food Stamp Program began with President Kennedy’s 1961 announcement of a pilot food stamp program that was to be established in eight impoverished counties. The pilot programs were later expanded to 43 counties in 1962 and 1963. The success of these pilot programs led to the Food Stamp Act of 1964, which gave local areas the authority to start up the FSP in their county. As with the current FSP, the program was federally funded and benefits were redeemable at approved retail food stores. In the period following the passage of the Food Stamp Act, there was a steady stream of counties initiating Food Stamp Programs and Federal spending on the FSP more than doubled between 1967 and 1969 (from $115 million to $250 million). Support for a national FSP grew due to a public spotlight on hunger (Berry 1984). This interest culminated in passage of 1973 Amendments to the Food Stamp Act, which mandated that all counties offer FSP by 1975.