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  • Day Arnold, BSND

Grow Your Own Food with SNAP/EBT: A Summer Guide

Hello neighbors! Our long-awaited summer is finally here, and the plant life is in full bloom, surrounding us with lush greenery and beautiful landscapes. It's the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. And what better way to do that than by starting your own edible garden?

Did you know that your SNAP/EBT benefits can be used to buy edible seeds and plants? That’s right – you can use your benefits to start your very own garden, providing fresh and nutritious food for your family all summer long, for a fraction of the prices at the grocery store.

Why Gardening?

Gardening is more than just a way to grow food and get dirty. It’s an activity that can improve our everyday lives and provide huge benefits like:

  • Cost Savings: A small packet of seeds can grow into a bounty of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, stretching your food dollars further. Try saving seeds from organic or heirloom produce. For example, one bell pepper contains tons of seeds that are easy to scoop out and plant. They don’t need a lot of space either! For the price of that single pepper, you could end up with dozens more.

  • Nutrition: Homegrown produce is packed with vitamins and nutrients. You can harvest your veggies and fruits at their peak, ensuring the best taste and health benefits.

  • Mental Health: Spending time in the garden greatly reduces stress and improves mental well-being. Getting your hands dirty is a peaceful, rewarding activity that is proven to lift your spirits.

  • Family Fun: Gardening also is an excellent way to spend quality time with your family. It’s a hands-on learning experience for kids, teaching them where their food comes from and encouraging sustainable and balanced eating habits.

What Can You Buy with SNAP/EBT?

Your SNAP/EBT benefits can be used to purchase:

  • Vegetable Seeds: Think tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and more.

  • Fruit Seeds and Plants: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – even fruit trees like apples!

  • Herb Seeds and Plants: Basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, thyme, marjoram, and other herbs add fresh flavors to your meals. Fresh herbs are a great bang for your buck too! They don't require a lot of space to grow and you’ll end up with tons of fresh herbs at the ready, with little effort.

  • Seedlings: Young plants that are ready to be transplanted into your garden or larger potting containers for a head start on the growing season.

Getting Started

  1. Planning Your Garden: Start by deciding what you want to grow. Choose vegetables, fruits, and herbs that you or your family already love to eat.

  2. Shopping: Visit local farmers' markets, garden centers, or grocery stores – anywhere that sells plant supplies and accepts SNAP/EBT.

  3. Gardening: Whether you have a small backyard, a balcony with pots, a spot in a community garden, or a sunny windowsill, you can grow your own food. There are many resources available online and throughout our community to help you.

Tips for a Successful Garden

  • Start Small: If you’re new to gardening, start with a few easy-to-grow plants. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and leafy greens are great for beginners.

  • Learn and Connect: Look for local gardening workshops or online tutorials. Community garden groups are also a fantastic way to get advice and support. Don't forget to visit your local library for how-to guidebooks and resources!

  • Save on Seeds: Many libraries may also have seed libraries. You can go and get free seeds to grow all kinds of edible and non-edible plants! Then, at the end of the season, you can bring some of your seeds back to “return” them. If you have friends with green thumbs, try starting different seeds and doing a plant exchange with your extras.

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Lighten your loads to the transfer station and save even more money on fancy pots by reusing empty cans and plastic containers from things like yogurt, milk gallons, and ground coffee. Egg cartons work great for starting seedlings that can then be cut apart and planted right in the ground like peat pots. Plastic containers from berries and greens also work well as tabletop greenhouses for starting seedlings indoors.

  • Care for Your Garden: Regular watering, weeding, and keeping an eye out for pests are key to a healthy garden. Make it a family activity!

  • Enjoy Your Harvest: There’s nothing quite like eating food you’ve grown yourself. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables taste amazing and are so good for you. If you have a yard and the right conditions, squashes and melons are also easy to plant and can provide a great yield.

Join the Gardening Movement

Gardening with SNAP/EBT is a fantastic way to improve your family’s food security and health. Plus, it’s an enjoyable and rewarding activity that can boost your mental well-being. So why not give it a try this summer?

For more tips and resources on gardening with SNAP/EBT, feel free to reach out to me with questions, or consider getting in touch for a free, local SNAP-Ed class. Happy gardening!

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