Millions of Americans lost jobs and homes in the 2008 financial collapse known as the Great Recession. While big banks received financial bailouts, individuals scrambled for new, often low-wage jobs in a depressed market. Many Americans saw and experienced the inequalities in a system that favored corporate interests over the public good. In response to widespread economic hardship, Congress significantly boosted benefits for food stamps (renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2008). This helped prevent a more serious spike in hunger and momentarily demonstrated the efficacy of an adequately-funded social safety net. The boost was prematurely rolled back in 2013, despite continued high unemployment and food insecurity.
President Barack Obama, the first African American president in U.S. history, took office in January 2009. At the same time, the “Tea Party” emerged as a backlash to his election, deploying rhetoric that programs like SNAP catered to “freeloading” people unworthy of support. Their rhetoric, buoyed by the rapid spread of information and misinformation on social media, heightened political polarization with lasting implications.
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be