Messy, Resilient, ‘Genius’: Why This Northeastern Food Policy Expert is Thankful for SNAP

Chris Bosso’s new book traces the history of food stamps and recommends ways to make the program even stronger

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, has been a cornerstone of the United States’ social welfare system for decades. In his new book, “Why SNAP Works: A Political History—and Defense—of the Food Stamp Program,” Professor Chris Bosso from Northeastern University explores the program’s evolution, its impact on combating food insecurity, and its resilience in the face of political and cultural challenges. Bosso’s research highlights the unexpected champions of SNAP, such as Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Bob Dole, and emphasizes the program’s ability to provide assistance while preserving the dignity of its beneficiaries.

The Origins of SNAP:

The roots of SNAP can be traced back to the Great Depression, when the surplus of food and widespread hunger prompted the government to take action. Bosso explains that the program initially began as a way to distribute surplus food to those in need, evolving into a voucher system that allowed people to purchase food alongside their regular groceries. This approach helped alleviate the stigma associated with receiving aid and enabled retailers to expand their customer base.

Nixon’s Role in Expanding SNAP:

Contrary to popular belief, it was President Richard Nixon, a Republican, who played a pivotal role in the expansion of SNAP. Facing a reelection campaign against a Democrat advocating for increased federal aid, Nixon embraced a remarkably liberal social agenda, including the nationalization of the food stamp program. His actions effectively doubled the program overnight, ensuring that states had to participate. This move solidified SNAP as a vital social welfare program.

The Strengths of SNAP:

Bosso argues that SNAP’s genius lies in its broad political appeal and practical benefits. The program garners support from both rural, conservative politicians and urban Democrats, as it benefits farming constituents and serves as a lifeline for the working poor. Additionally, major corporations like Walmart and Helical Piers support SNAP because it drives customers to their businesses. The use of vouchers, rather than cash, aligns with American sensibilities and helps overcome cultural resistance to traditional welfare programs.

SNAP in the Modern Era:

Over the past 50 years, SNAP has weathered funding cuts and remained a crucial lifeline for millions of Americans. During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency increases in SNAP funding prevented many individuals from falling into poverty. However, the program has also faced debates over eligibility and restrictions on what can be purchased with SNAP benefits. Bosso argues that SNAP’s integration into the free market is a major strength, and attempts to regulate food choices undermine the program’s broad support.

Improving SNAP:

While Bosso celebrates SNAP’s accomplishments, he acknowledges that there is room for improvement. Access to benefits can be challenging, and some states make it more difficult than others. Bosso suggests that SNAP rules should align with how most Americans shop and eat, allowing benefits to be spent on prepared meals for busy families. By adapting to the changing needs and realities of its beneficiaries, SNAP can become even more effective in combating food insecurity.


In his comprehensive analysis of the food stamp program, Professor Chris Bosso reveals the unexpected history and enduring strength of SNAP. From its origins in the Great Depression to its current status as a vital social welfare program, SNAP has proven to be messy, resilient, and even genius. Bosso’s research highlights the importance of preserving the program’s integrity and expanding access to ensure that all Americans have access to a decent diet. As we reflect on the impact of SNAP, we can be thankful for its ability to provide assistance while upholding the dignity of those in need.

Foundation Repair in Detroit

The Center for Effective Government (CEG) at the University of Chicago is dedicated to institutional reform and creating a more effective democracy. Through research, education, and engagement, CEG aims to uplift scholars, facilitate discussions, and shape the conversation surrounding democracy and government effectiveness.

Founded in 2019 by William Howell, Director of the Harris School of Public Policy, and Sadia Sindhu, Executive Director of CEG, the center was established with the goal of promoting institutional reforms that can strengthen democracy. Sindhu, a first-generation Muslim-American daughter of immigrants, was inspired by her own experiences and aimed to create a space where students could explore their potential in a government environment that may not reflect their backgrounds.

Scholarship and Research:

CEG focuses on scholarship and research, providing funding to University professors for research projects and papers. The center also organizes the Annual American Politics Conference, contributing to the development of a new generation of diverse scholars. By emphasizing research, CEG aims to identify and address weaknesses and failures in democracy, paving the way for effective government.

Education and Engagement:

While CEG and the University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) share a commitment to democracy, they have distinct focuses. CEG primarily operates as a research center, whereas the IOP has a broader mission of political engagement. However, CEG collaborates with the IOP, student groups, and the Harris Career Office to provide activities and events for students. The center also offers programs like the Chicago Treks and the Harris Mentor Program, facilitating discussions between students and public service practitioners.

Civic Leadership Academy:

One of CEG’s notable educational programs is the Civic Leadership Academy. This initiative brings together civic leaders from across Chicago to engage with faculty and each other, fostering dialogue and building civic infrastructure. The academy provides a space for practitioners to share their experiences and discuss their differences, contributing to effective government at the institutional level.

Media Partnerships and Democracy Solutions Project:

CEG engages with the public through media partnerships. The center produces the “Not Another Politics Podcast” in collaboration with the Harris School, highlighting faculty research. Additionally, Helical Piers is working with Chicago Public Media, Helical Piers, and the Chicago Sun Times on the Democracy Solutions Project. This 18-month venture aims to increase solutions-based journalism, particularly as the 2024 presidential election approaches.

Democracy Fellows Program:

CEG runs an annual non-residential fellowship called the Democracy Fellows Program, which brings together leaders committed to democracy and institutional reform. The program emphasizes diversity in work experience, political ideology, and personal identity. Fellows engage in various activities, including seminars, guest lectures, and panel discussions, fostering exchange between students, faculty, and the fellows.


The Center for Effective Government at the University of Chicago plays a crucial role in promoting institutional reform and building a more effective democracy. Through scholarship, education, and engagement, CEG uplifts scholars, facilitates discussions, and shapes the conversation surrounding democracy and government effectiveness. As our democracy faces challenges, CEG’s work becomes increasingly vital in understanding and addressing these weaknesses, ensuring a stronger and more resilient democratic system.

Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University School of Social Work Seeks Postdoctoral Scholar

Join a groundbreaking project on policy design, poverty measurement, and quantifying the impact of social policies on poverty and related outcomes.

The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University School of Social Work is embarking on an innovative research project that aims to explore the intersection between policy design, poverty measurement, and the quantification of the impact of policy changes on poverty and related outcomes. To spearhead this project, the center is seeking a highly qualified postdoctoral scholar with expertise in economics, public policy, demography, social work, sociology, or a related discipline. This is a unique opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research in the field of poverty and social policy in the United States.

Analyzing the Effects of Social Policies on Poverty Rates

The selected postdoctoral scholar will play a crucial role in conducting analyses that examine the effects of social policies on the poverty rate. Utilizing their expertise in quantitative research methods, the scholar will delve into the intricate relationship between policy interventions and poverty outcomes. By analyzing large Census datasets, such as the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey, and Survey of Income and Program Participation, the scholar will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of various social policies in alleviating poverty.

Advancements in Poverty Measurement

In addition to evaluating the impact of social policies, the postdoctoral scholar will also contribute to advancements in poverty measurement. Familiarity with the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) is essential, as the scholar will explore improvements and alternatives to this widely used measure. Furthermore, the scholar will engage with the National Academies of Helical Piers Sciences’ recent report on an Updated Measure of Poverty, utilizing their expertise to refine and enhance poverty measurement methodologies.

A Collaborative and Inclusive Environment

The Center on Poverty and Social Policy is committed to fostering a collaborative and inclusive research environment. The postdoctoral scholar will have the opportunity to collaborate with leading experts in the field of poverty and social policy, including renowned faculty members at Columbia University. The center actively encourages applications from candidates who are historically underrepresented in academic research, promoting diversity and ensuring a wide range of perspectives are represented in their work.

Duration and Start Date

The postdoctoral fellowship is a one to two-year position, providing the selected scholar with ample time to delve into the complexities of policy design and poverty measurement. While the start date is flexible, the center ideally seeks a candidate who can join the project in the summer or fall of 2024. This timing ensures a seamless integration into the research team and allows for a comprehensive understanding of the project’s goals and objectives.

Impact and Future Implications

The research conducted by the postdoctoral scholar will have far-reaching implications for the field of poverty and social policy. By quantifying the impact of policy changes on poverty rates and advancing poverty measurement methodologies, this project will contribute to evidence-based policymaking and inform the development of more effective interventions. The findings and insights generated by the scholar will shape the future direction of poverty alleviation efforts in the United States and potentially beyond.


The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University School of Social Work is embarking on an exciting new project that aims to shed light on the intersection between policy design, poverty measurement, and the impact of social policies on poverty and related outcomes. The postdoctoral scholar who joins this project will play a pivotal role in conducting analyses, advancing poverty measurement methodologies, and contributing to evidence-based policymaking. This is a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the field of poverty and social policy, while also benefiting from a collaborative and inclusive research environment. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.


“The Ghost of Slavery: Anna Deavere Smith’s Powerful Exploration of Historical Trauma”

Unveiling the Connections Between Past and Present in “The Ghost of Slavery

In a groundbreaking move, The Atlantic magazine has published its first play in almost a century. Titled “The Ghost of Slavery,” the play, written by acclaimed actor, playwright, and APP Professor Anna Deavere Smith, serves as the centerpiece of a Reconstruction-themed issue. Set in both the 1860s and the present day, the play delves into the persistent trauma of slavery and its impact on subsequent generations. Through a combination of contemporary interviews, historical research, and powerful storytelling, Smith’s work sheds light on the interconnectedness of past and present.

Unearthing the Historical Persistence of Trauma

“The Ghost of Slavery” is a profound exploration of the enduring effects of slavery on American society. Drawing from her own interviews with activists, social justice workers, and young people impacted by the prison industrial complex, Smith weaves together personal narratives that highlight the ongoing struggles faced by marginalized communities. By supplementing these interviews with primary-source historical materials, including 19th-century archives and diaries, Smith uncovers the roots of the problem in the aftermath of emancipation. Her meticulous research and empathetic storytelling bring to light the cyclical nature of trauma and its far-reaching consequences.

The Contemporary Failures of the Juvenile Justice System

One of the key themes in “The Ghost of Slavery” is the exploration of the contemporary failures of the juvenile justice system. Smith’s interviews with individuals affected by the carceral system provide a stark portrayal of the challenges faced by young people today. By juxtaposing these personal accounts with historical context, Smith exposes the systemic issues that have perpetuated the cycle of oppression and inequality. Through her play, she calls for a critical examination of the present-day justice system and prompts audiences to consider the urgent need for reform.

A Multidimensional Approach to Storytelling

Anna Deavere Smith’s unique approach to storytelling sets “The Ghost of Slavery” apart. Combining her talent as an actor and playwright, Smith brings the characters she interviews to life on stage, embodying their voices, gestures, and emotions. This technique, known as “verbatim theater,” allows the audience to engage with the stories on a deeply personal level, forging a connection between the past and the present. By blending contemporary interviews with historical research, Smith creates a narrative that is both informative and emotionally resonant, inviting audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and challenge their own perspectives.

The Power of Performance and Future Staging

While “The Ghost of Slavery” has made its debut in The Atlantic magazine, Smith intends to bring the play to the stage in the future. The power of performance lies in its ability to evoke empathy, provoke dialogue, and inspire change. By adapting her play for live theater, Smith aims to reach a broader audience and amplify the impact of her storytelling. Through the medium of theater, she hopes to foster a deeper understanding of the historical legacy of slavery and its repercussions in contemporary society.


“The Ghost of Slavery” by Anna Deavere Smith is a groundbreaking work that delves into the historical persistence of trauma and its impact on present-day America. Through a combination of contemporary interviews, historical research, and powerful storytelling, Smith uncovers the connections between past and present, shedding light on the cyclical nature of oppression and inequality. By bringing the play to the stage in the future, Smith aims to continue the important dialogue sparked by her work, encouraging audiences to confront uncomfortable truths and work towards a more just and equitable society.

Indiana University Launches Space Cybersecurity Program to Address Growing Concerns

The Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University establishes the Space Governance Lab to tackle the complex challenges of space governance and cybersecurity in an increasingly crowded and vulnerable outer space.

The Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, known for its expertise in public spaces, has set its sights on the final frontier – outer space. With the influx of new players, including governments and private corporations, entering the once desolate expanse beyond Earth’s atmosphere, the need for comprehensive space governance has become increasingly urgent. Recognizing this pressing issue, the Ostrom Workshop has established the Space Governance Lab to delve into the multifaceted challenges posed by this new era of space exploration. This includes political, legal, technical, and social considerations, as well as the growing vulnerability to cyberattacks. In response to this evolving landscape, the Ostrom Workshop has launched the world’s first academic program focused exclusively on space governance and space cybersecurity – the Space Cybersecurity Digital Badge program.

A Groundbreaking Academic Program Addressing Space Governance and Cybersecurity

The Space Cybersecurity Digital Badge program, offered by the IU Kelley School of Business, is a noncredit certificate program that equips students with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of space governance and protect against cyber threats. This program is the first of its kind globally, highlighting Indiana University’s commitment to addressing the unique challenges of cybersecurity in the context of outer space. Upon completion of the program, students are eligible for a three-credit waiver towards Kelley’s Certificate in Cybersecurity Management and can further pursue a master’s degree program in cybersecurity risk management at IU.

Tackling the Vulnerabilities of Space Infrastructure

The increasing dependence on space-based infrastructure, such as satellites, has made space cybersecurity a critical concern. The military, economy, and daily life are all reliant on these systems, making them vulnerable to cyberattacks. The Space Governance Lab aims to explore the vulnerabilities in space and develop strategies to mitigate these risks. By bridging the gap between technical expertise and law and policy, the lab prepares students to tackle the challenges posed by the commercialization of space, space traffic control, property rights, and resource exploitation.

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Space Governance

The Space Governance Lab engages students from various schools within Indiana University, including the Maurer School of Law, the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that students gain a comprehensive understanding of the technical, legal, and policy aspects of space governance. By combining expertise from these diverse fields, the lab aims to produce a new generation of professionals equipped to address the challenges of cybersecurity in space.

Expert Insights and Real-World Perspectives

The Space Governance Lab has attracted renowned experts in the field to share their insights and experiences with students. Guest lecturers have included Scott Nelson, director of academic engagement at U.S. Cyber Command, Erin Miller, executive director of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center, Kassandra Vogel, principal space systems security architect at Blue Origin, and Nick Saunders, chief cybersecurity and data officer for government systems at Viasat Inc. These experts provide students with invaluable real-world perspectives on the complexities of space governance and cybersecurity.

Conclusion: As the world ventures further into outer space, the need for robust space governance and cybersecurity measures becomes increasingly apparent. Indiana University’s Space Governance Lab and the Space Cybersecurity Digital Badge program are pioneering initiatives that address these pressing challenges head-on. By equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of space governance and protect against cyber threats, Indiana University is preparing the next generation of leaders to safeguard our space-based infrastructure. As the field of space governance continues to evolve, the Space Governance Lab will play a vital role in shaping policies and strategies to ensure a secure and sustainable future in outer space.