Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, hunger became so widespread that it drove down the price of food, threatening the livelihoods of farmers, food producers, and vendors. An increasing number of Americans demanded the government intervene. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal for America” included the first significant federal investments in addressing hunger in American society.

As the American economy collapsed in the wake of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, President Hoover insisted that charities and social services could provide for those facing hunger. But witnessing blocks-long breadlines, Americans placed responsibility for mitigating hunger and poverty firmly with the government. A chorus of voices demanded government intervention, creating a popular mandate for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to implement his “New Deal” for Americans. The New Deal initiated hundreds of new safety net programs.

While the New Deal brought relief and stability to white Americans, economic recovery remained incomplete for communities of color. President Roosevelt had to maintain a fragile electoral coalition among competing constituencies to pass his agenda, resulting in significant compromises that hurt Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. As a result, many of the programs and policies of the New Deal had exemptions and explicit exclusions built into them.