Maggie Dickinson, Assistant Professor, Guttman Community College, CUNY
The food safety net has experienced unprecedented growth in the 21st Century. Since 2001, the food stamp rolls in the U.S. have more than doubled, reaching a historic high of 47 million Americans, or 15% of the population in 2012. The number of people served by soup kitchens and food pantries in this same period has also risen, from 25 million in 2005 to 46.5 million in 2012.
Contrary to the well-worn story of global welfare states in decline, spending on programs targeted to the poor in the U.S. has grown steadily since the mid-1980’s. This increased spending has been carefully targeted towards low-wage workers. With the rise of flexible labor in the post-Fordist era, unstable, irregular, and low-wage work has become the norm. In response, social supports, like food assistance, have been deployed to protect poor workers against the predictable, systemic risk of below-subsistence wages. This research examines how the expansion of food assistance redefines ideas of citizenship, belonging, work, welfare, family, and gender in the contemporary United States.