DYK? SNAP benefits can be used for Seeds!
The largest federal nutrition assistance program allows participants to purchase seeds and seedlings, which should, in theory, help low-income gardeners grow their own food.
It started in 1998 with a bell pepper. Eliana (who asked us to use only her first name) was living with her kids in Pennsylvania and was newly separated from her partner. With a long-term disability, Eliana wasn’t able to drive, which meant her options for work were limited, and she had trouble finding a job. So she signed up for food stamps, as they were called at the time, what’s now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Looking to stretch every dollar, Eliana scoured grocery stores for the best food she could find for her family. Some fruits and vegetables, like bell peppers, were just too expensive. But as a lifelong gardener, Eliana knew that if she could get her hands on some seeds and a decent plot of land, she could grow what she needed to make up the difference in her grocery haul.
It’s not a well-known fact, but SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds or plant starts. It’s not always easy to find a store that both accepts SNAP payments and sells seeds or seedlings, but Eliana was persistent. She even educated the retailers on occasion, as they didn’t know the benefits could be used to purchase seeds. “Usually, the cashier is shocked, most managers also,” Eliana says. “Ringing them up, [I watch] the looks on their faces.”
The USDA encourages SNAP participants to use their benefits to purchase seeds. According to the USDA, for every $1 that a gardener spends on seeds and fertilizer, they’ll reap about $25 worth of food. For someone relying on government assistance, that kind of return on investment is unbeatable.