CAP logo“We must open the doors of opportunity but we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” ~Lyndon Baines Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson was familiar with the impact of poverty long before he introduced legislation to eradicate it as the 36th president of the United States.
Growing up in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson knew the insecurity of not having food in the house or knowing if his parents would be able to cover the house payment each month. His father, Samuel Ealy Johnson, lost all of his money in the cotton futures market before eventually finding his footing in real estate.

As a young adult, LBJ saw the nationwide economic collapse caused by the Great Depression. Before entering the field of politics, he taught Mexican-American children at a school in an impoverished area of La Salle County, TX.

When Johnson championed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 from his seat in the White House, he described how the nation must declare “a war on poverty.” The agenda would include the outline for programs like the Older Americans ActMedicare,MedicaidHead Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and College Work Study (now Federal Work Study).

One of the tenants of Johnson’s strategy involved the Community Action Partnership, a network of nonprofit agencies organized to attack the root source of poverty in their own backyards. Today, 50 years after LBJ’s appeal to the country, there are approximately 1,100 community action agencies providing support, education and resources to families and individuals across the U.S. striving to transition from poverty to self-reliance.

SNAP was formed in 1966, two years after the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act. For 20 years, Spokane County’s community action agency operated as a branch of Catholic Charities. In 1986, SNAP became a stand-alone, private nonprofit.

Nationwide, the war on poverty appears to have made an impact. The poverty rate in the U.S. has gone from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012.

SNAP is one of 30 agencies in the Washington State Community Action Partnership. Like other community action agencies, SNAP’s board is divided into thirds with equal representation from the low-income community, public officials and the private sector. The majority of community action agencies serve those with incomes below 75 percent of the federal poverty threshold – or $9,735 for a family of three.

In 2012, community action agencies throughout Washington invested $355 million back into the state’s economy while providing 4,000 jobs. A total of 721,416 people were supported through CAA programs.

Earlier this year, SNAP board members and staff were part of a crowd nearing 200 that gathered in Olympia for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Community Action Partnership. Board members Chris McCabe, Spokane Mayor David Condon, PJ Grabicki, Dave Werme and Cindy Algeo of the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium were in attendance. SNAP CEO Julie Honekamp, Mission Support Director Amber Boice, Housing Improvements Director Chris Davis and Financial Access Program Manager Derek Ferraro represented SNAP staff.
“The celebration was a reminder that the campaign to end poverty crosses all party lines,” Julie said. “For the past 50 years, the Community Action Partnership has enlisted bipartisan support across the country to help bring stability and hope to our low-income neighbors.”