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Teaching Guide: Exploring the History of Food Stamp Programs

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Feeding the Hungry with Food Stamp Programs, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using the 1940 booklet, 1972 pamphlet, and 1975 booklet, describe the original Food Stamp Program established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal and discuss how the program has transformed over time. How would you compare and contrast the program of the 1940s with the program of the 1970s and today’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? How would you improve today’s SNAP program?
  2. Using the 1972 pamphlet, explain why you think reforms were needed to the Food Program of 1964. Do you think the reforms were successful? Why or why not?
  3. Using the 1940 booklet and the 2012 analysis, explain whether or not you think that food stamp programs play a critical role in alleviating poverty.
  4. Based on the 1939 political cartoon, why do you think Congress presented opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s food subsidy program?

Classroom activities

Divide the class into small groups with some students using 1939 resources and others using guidelines from today’s SNAP. Provide a week’s worth of food coupons to each group. Using the appropriate guidelines for each era, ask students to develop a shopping list and a week’s list of meals to feed a family of four based on research about the price of food in the late 1930s. Does each group have enough food stamps to feed the entire family? Are each of the meals balanced? Was each group able to purchase everything it needed? Why did each group choose the items purchased?

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