“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969. During this time, he signed the Food Stamp Act into law, which marked a significant turning point in the history of federal food assistance. His signature policy objective — the “War on Poverty” — included multiple legislative components such as economic development, youth employment, and expanded minimum wage.
Image Caption: “President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives, Jan. 8, 1964.” AP Photo.
“Unless we start to fight and defeat the enemies in our own country, poverty and racism, and make our talk of equality and opportunity ring true, we are exposed in the eyes of the world as hypocrites when we talk about making people free.”
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress in 1968, representing New York’s 12th district for seven terms. With inspiration from a prominent constituent, Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, Congresswoman Chisholm used her perch on the House Agriculture Committee to shape the federal food stamp program. She became one of the architects of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which to this day provides critical nutrition support for expecting and postpartum mothers and their children.
Image Caption: “With a beaming smile, Shirley Chisholm posed outside the East Front of the Capitol.” Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Can we move from the language of kindness to the language of justice? Can we move from philanthropic sensibility to political commitment? The problem of hunger is not a problem that can readily be solved by charity. Hunger exists not because food is lacking, but because the will to justice is lacking. We must build the bridges that connect politics to ethics and charity and justice.”
Leonard “Leibel” Fein was a Jewish intellectual, writer, and activist, who is widely considered to be one of the founders of today’s Jewish social justice movement. In 1985, he founded MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which has become one of the leading national anti-hunger organizations working to end hunger for all people in the U.S. and Israel.
MAZON fights for a world where those in need are supported, the powerful are held to account, and hunger is a distant memory. Please join us as we learn from the past to shape our vision for the future. Visit the Wishing Tree and leave your wish today.
We are a nation that can and will respond to visionaries who center the best of our values as a democracy. We are capable of establishing a government that works for the people, including those who are vulnerable and/or marginalized by long-held systemic biases. It is essential for us to not only recall — but to understand — how we almost ended hunger in America, so that together we can make that vision a reality.
While there will always be people who need to be caught by the safety net when the bottom falls out of their world, that story should not be as common as it is today. The overall structure of American society must be stronger and more secure, and we look to wise leaders of the past to guide our vision forward. This wisdom and leadership can inspire a future that is free from hunger, as well as provide a roadmap to make that future a reality. When we truly listen, reflect, and understand, we can transform how it is into how it should be.
Please join us as we learn from the past to shape our vision for the future. Visit the Wishing Tree and leave your wish today.
The painful reality is that today, nearly 40 million Americans face food insecurity. Hunger exists in every state and every congressional district in the nation. The Hunger Museum illustrates how we once solved hunger in this country — and how we can do it again. We look to wise leaders of the past to inspire a vision for the future.
Visions for the Future
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