Remembering Tom Foley
We at Bread for the World are deeply saddened by the death of former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley. Foley died on Friday, at the age of 84, but he leaves behind a great legacy as a bipartisan dealmaker and influential leader. He was an early champion of the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. On Friday, Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote that Foley “did more than any other lawmaker to build the modern food stamp program and thereby largely eliminate sever hunger and malnutrition in America.”
Through his talent for leading bipartisan efforts, Foley was able to enlist both Republicans and Democrats in efforts to expand the federal food stamp program. In a statement given Friday, President Obama noted that Foley’s “straightforward approach helped him find common ground with members of both parties.”
Foley, who represented Washington state’s 5th congressional district, worked tirelessly to support his Spokane-area constituents and the American people. In 1964, when he was first elected to Congress, Foley joined the House Committee on Agriculture, and urged his fellow committee members to think more deeply about how their policies could affect hunger and malnutrition, especially among children.
In the late 1960s, Foley was moved by data that showed severe hunger and nutrition-related deficiencies across very poor parts of the country, particularly the deep South. When medical teams returned to these regions in the late 1970s and reported dramatic improvement in hunger and the near elimination of childhood diseases caused by malnutrition, Foley’s food stamp reforms were credited as a key factor.
Additionally, Foley helped Washington State University receive federal grants to develop productive new varieties of wheat, apples, and other crops. These developments helped assist global anti-hunger efforts.
The effects of Foley's work on the farm bill, civil liberties, environmental legislation, civil rights bills, and hunger programs, as well as his ability to work with both political parties, will be felt for years to come.
Photo: House Speaker Tom Foley, in his official Congressional portrait.
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