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Food and social safety nets have a history as long as human civilization. In hunter gatherer societies, food sharing is pervasive. Group members who prove unlucky in the short run, hunting or foraging, receive food from other households in anticipation of reciprocal consideration at a later time (Smith 1988). With the emergence of the first large sedentary civilizations in the Middle East, administrative systems developed specifically around food storage and distribution. The ancient Egyptians, for example, stored food in public warehouses for distribution in times of famine.


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