Food Stamps and Nutrition

 

This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1942, pages 28-30

 

Food Stamps and Nutrition

by Walter M. Costello

RELIEF DIRECTOR

 

     In June, 1939, the City of Dayton was the second city in the United States to inaugurate the Federal Surplus Commodity Food Stamp Plan. At that time the plan was in its experimental stages and has since become one of the most popular programs of the Federal Government. Basically, the plan provides that for each dollar spent for food by the recipient of public assistance, the government provides an additional fifty cents in the form of blue food stamps. Thus the purchasing power for food of the under-privileged is increased by 50 percent. During the first six months of operation recipients of public assistance purchased $224,854.00 in Orange stamps and received in addition $238,985.00 in Blue stamps. This latter figure represents the additional amount of food which was purchased because Dayton was fortunate in securing this program at an early stage.

     While the figures for 1942 have been considerably reduced because of a reduction in case loads, the food stamp program has brought to the recipients of public assistance in the City of Dayton an estimated $215,000.00 in additional food which otherwise would not have been provided.

     What with rationing being the current topic of the day, the question of a surplus program naturally arises. When the food stamp program was inaugurated it was under the general supervision of the Surplus Marketing Administration. Some time ago the name was changed to the Agricultural Marketing Administration. Today many people still think of the food stamp program and the school lunch program in terms of surplus. Actually it is not. Rather it is a nation-wide nutrition program. The Federal Government, realizing that local standards of public assistance were far too low for a healthy subsistence level and having vast surpluses of food going to waste throughout the country, inaugurated the food stamp program and the school lunch program to divert these surpluses to waiting and half-starved stomachs of families receiving public assistance.

     Many items which are currently scarce in local groceries have appeared on the food stamp list and [p. 28] the school lunch programs during the past several months. “I hear you have cheese and butter in your local warehouse. Why, I couldn’t even get any at the store today. And besides they tell me that these items will be rationed. Why are these items surplus now?” This is similar to inquiries received every day. The answer? Butter and cheese and similar items were purchased by the government months ago for various and sundry reasons; chief of which is the fact that storage facilities are not available as in the past. Then, too, some of the items were purchased under the lease-lend agreement to be shipped overseas to feed the hungry millions in Europe but lacking shipping space and facilities, had to be retained in this country. The natural result is that these foods are diverted to other channels, notably the school lunch program and the food stamp plan. Funny things can happen in a program of this kind. For example, an item might be surplus in one state and a dire shortage in another. The answer is lack of sufficient transportation. With a far-seeing eye the government anticipates surpluses and makes a human approach to divert them into nutritious channels rather than experience waste in these critical times.

     In conjunction with the food stamp program and the school lunch program is the Victory foods program. This program is designed primarily to alleviate surpluses of various commodities during peak production periods. Unlike the other two programs this one is designed for the consuming and buying public. While these items specified as Victory foods may not always be purchased at a low price, they can be purchased at the current market levels. Behind the scenes the Victory food program is designed to conserve vital and common usage foods for future needs. By eating and purchasing Victory food specials, the general public is given the opportunity of participating in the war effort and at the same time conserving vitally essential foods for our armed forces.

     During the past year numerous efforts have been made to inaugurate the penny-milk program in the City of Dayton. This program, another sponsored and administered by the Agricultural Marketing Administration, would provide milk for children in the public and parochial schools at the rate of one cent per half-pint. However, because of the influx of population the availability of milk has become the deciding factor. In some quarters it is believed that milk will necessarily be rationed in [p. 29] this area. If this is true, it will mean that the possibilities of the penny milk program are practically nil. If not, this program still looms as a possibility in the near future.

     While we have the food stamp program, the school lunch program, and the Victory foods program, we are still not faced with surpluses, but we do have an all out nutrition program streamlined to keep the home front healthy.