Using SNAP Benefits to Grow Your Own Food (USDA article)

June 24, 2011 -- Every month, more than 44 million people use SNAP benefits to access nutritious food. Most of us probably imagine individuals purchasing items like tomatoes, squash, and apples with their benefits. SNAP, however, can also help people buy seeds and plants that produce edible items. All SNAP retailers, including Farmers’ Markets, are authorized to sell seeds and plants to SNAP participants.

For every $1 dollar invested in seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce. Growing food from seeds and plants makes SNAP benefits last longer, allowing recipients to double the value of their benefits over time. Supplementing the monthly SNAP benefit with homegrown food makes it possible for families to buy food products that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

The act of being producers as well as consumers is an empowering experience for SNAP participants. It allows them to feel self-reliant. It’s also another great way to promote nutrition, enabling people to take pride in eating their own homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Encouraging SNAP participants to buy seeds is a vital component to integrate into your organization’s SNAP outreach efforts. Participants who have never gardened might be hesitant to take advantage of seed and plant benefits. There are many strategies your organization can implement to encourage participation.

These include:

  • Community gardening classes and clubs to help neighbors support each other in gardening endeavors.
  • If you’re in an urban area, host classes on how to grow small food bearing plants indoors and in small spaces like windowsills.
  • If you’re an organization with open land, consider donating space to SNAP participants who do not have room available for gardening.
  • Encourage families to participate. Growing food is an activity families can take on together.
  • Create recipe books that incorporate the foods commonly grown in your community.

For more information on SNAP benefits visit the USDA site (link).