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Celebrating Food Stamps Half Century Protecting Public Health

October 28 2014

The #snap4SNAP campaign beginning Oct. 30 is partly inspired by Witnesses to Hunger, and will celebrate 50 years of food stamps and their success protecting public health.

Fifty years ago, American lawmakers and the public found the presence of hunger in U.S. communities so appalling that people came together and legislators reached across the aisle to do something about it: they passed the Food Stamp Act of 1964, providing federally funded nutritional assistance to individuals and families in need.

Although food stamps have become a hot-button political issue, public health experts and anti-poverty advocates have long held that the program, now known as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), is a tremendous public good.

“Our research has shown that SNAP is one of the single most effective pieces of legislation in protecting the health of young children and promoting their cognitive, emotional and social development,” said Mariana Chilton, PhD, an associate professor and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University.

Now, a nationwide campaign, initiated by Chilton and her colleagues at Drexel’s School of Public Health, will celebrate 50 years of food stamps’ health benefits and support for working parents--a timely reminder near the one-year anniversary of cuts to SNAP on Nov. 1, 2013. Those cuts reduced benefits for every family participating in the program.

The campaign invites everyone to share photos, experiences, thoughts, questions – anything they would like to say about SNAP– using the hashtag #snap4SNAP, on social media on Oct. 30 from 2-4 p.m. EDT and in the days and weeks to follow. Contributors are invited to share their perspectives on how SNAP helps families, facts about SNAP or thoughts about the impact of cuts to SNAP – with photos when possible.

More than 50 organizations have committed to participate in #snap4SNAP. The hashtag and campaign play on the word “snap” also being used for the action of taking a photo – inspired by the groundbreaking “Witnesses to Hunger” program based at Drexel, which, since 2008, has engaged low-income parents in sharing photos of their experiences with hunger and poverty to bring their first-hand experiences and knowledge into the public conversation. Participants in Witnesses to Hunger will also be actively contributing to the #snap4SNAP conversation on Oct. 30.

“The #snap4SNAP campaign aims to illuminate the real life experiences of SNAP recipients and give people a platform to talk about the program,” said Chilton. “By using social media, we can bring a dose of reality to the conversation around hunger.”

For more information and frequently asked questions about the #snap4SNAP campaign, and to see a list of some of the participating organizations, visit Drexel’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities website.