Video: How the Rebbe Helped Create Food Stamps

The late Shirley Chisholm was honored by President Barack Obama at the White House when she posthumously received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Chisholm made history in 1968 when she became the first female black American elected to Congress, representing New York’s 12th District for seven terms. She also became the first major-party black candidate for president of the United States when she ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1972.

Chisholm was born in and represented the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., and soon after her election to Congress had a notable encounter with one of her most famous constituents—the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Turning Disappointment into Food for the Hungry details how Chisholm would later credit this encounter with changing her outlook during a particularly difficult time in her long public career.

The outcome was highlighted by President Obama during the awards ceremony at the White House. The President pointed out that when first elected to Congress, Chisholm was assigned to the House Agricultural Committee—despite the fact that her district was in Brooklyn. “She made the most of her new role,” said Obama, “helping to create the supplemental nutrition program that feeds poor mothers and their children. Shirley Chisholm’s example transcends her life.”

In an interview with Jewish Educational Media (JEM), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dr. David Luchins recalls how Congresswoman Chisholm revealed at her retirement party in 1983 the identity of a most important mentor who suggested that she focus on using her position to help feed the poor.


  • Frum community and benefits

    It’s interesting that the philosophy of many in the Frum community leans more towards capitalism and the conservative party’s philosophy in matters related to taxed and benefits, while at the same time the Frum community benefits tremendously from the benefit programs that the government set up.

    I always wondered about this for myself and the community. I wonder and don’t have an answer, just what I have observed with myself and many other like minded people.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the supplemental food program for women and children the “WIC” program,not “food stamps”?

  • Milhouse

    Neither the Rebbe nor Chisholm had any role in creating food stamps. Food stamps started in 1964 (after a pilot program in the early ’60s). Chisholm’s stint in Congress began in 1969. I don’t know what role she is supposed to have played in creating WIC, since it didn’t come out of the Agriculture Committee. I find plenty of eulogies that praise her for playing a role, but none that say what it was, leading me to suspect that it’s more retrospective invention than fact.

    • Wiki

      In 1968,[3] a group of physicians described to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the USDA that young women, often pregnant, came to their clinics with various ailments that were caused by a lack of food. The doctors would prescribe needed foods, with the prescription acting as a sort of food voucher. WIC’s program beginnings surface in 1969, when the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health recommended that special attention be given to the nutritional needs of low-income pregnant women and preschool children.[4]

      WIC was formally created by an amendment to section 17 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 on September 26, 1972.[5]

    • Milhouse

      Exactly. No mention of the Agriculture Committee or Chisholm. That doesn’t prove she didn’t have some key role; WP is hardly a reliable source for such things. But it’s curious that I was unable to find any source for such a role except in articles eulogizing her, which once again is not a reliable source.