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Messy, resilient, ‘genius’: why this Northeastern food policy expert is thankful for SNAP

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A pivotal figure in the expansion of government food stamps, which give low-income citizens financial aid for buying food, wasn’t a community organizer, philanthropist or far-left politician. It was Richard Nixon.

In the early 1970s, the Republican president was facing an eventual reelection campaign against George McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota and a champion of expanding federal aid. But unlike many of today’s post-Reagan conservatives, Nixon made a robust social agenda one of his hallmarks.

“Nixon was not going to be outflanked by anybody on domestic policy,” says Chris Bosso, a professor of public policy and political science at Northeastern University. “He had a remarkably liberal social agenda on the environment by today’s standards, on consumer safety, on food programs.”

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