Food stamps, or EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer), can be a lifesaving form of assistance to the 45 million people (15 percent of the US population) who cannot afford to buy groceries each year. Many programs allow recipients to use their benefits in restaurants and supermarkets, and — not as well-known — to purchase seeds and plants. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) offered by the Federal Government, allows EBT points to be turned into thriving subsistence backyard gardens.
To help get the word out about the lesser known side of food stamp benefits, garden advocate Daniel Bowman Simon formed the nonprofit SNAP Gardens. The organization offers informational posters in several languages for farmers markets, housing centers, and community centers across the country, letting the locally administered EBT programs promote the proliferation of home small-scale farms. With a boost from an Awesome Food microgrant, SNAP Gardens will soon be working with the Dinner Garden to establish a telephone hotline that provides horticultural advice.
For those who could use a little extra know-how to start raising food from seed, the SNAP Ed-Connection , intended as instructional aids for regional EBT providers, is a great resource for education and training materials. San Luis Obispo residents can attend free enrichment classes all year round by master gardeners every 3rd Saturday of the month. Cuesta College occasionally holds community workshops for a small fee that focus on designing, establishing, and maintaining a new garden. The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden leads tours of its demonstration plots, and gives first time green thumbs a chance to practice and get dirty every Tuesday from 9-11am.
Even if you do not take advantage of EBT, you can let gardens provide for you and your family! What a great way to save money, reconnect with the earth, and eat healthy this season!