USDA Encourages SNAP Participants to use Benefits to Purchase Seeds and Plants


Food News

USDA Encourages SNAP Participants to use Benefits to Purchase Seeds and Plants

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) wants gardeners to know for every $1 spent on seeds, they'll reap about $25 worth of food.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss


America's 31st president, Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), took office in 1929. Immediately after that, starting with the U.S. economy, the world plummeted into a severe economic downturn called The Great Depression. It lasted from August 1929 to March 1933, and Hoover bore the most significant share of the blame in the minds of the American people. During this painful period, soup kitchens opened across America to feed the hungry, and "breadlines" stretched for blocks.


"Impoverished" in "The Land of Plenty"

The Great Depression affected about half the U.S. population – 60 million people. And Unemployment reached nearly 25 percent. Eighty-two percent of farm families were classified as "impoverished."

This time in our history led to the famous "slaughter of the innocents." Some six million piglets were slaughtered to prevent a surplus of pork in the market. From there, the U.S. food stamp program was launched in 1933.

The Federal government bought essential farm commodities at discount prices and distributed them among hunger relief agencies in states and local communities to support farmers.

Today, USDA administrates SNAP in cooperation with state social service agencies. The federal government pays 100 percent of SNAP benefits. SNAP is the most extensive nutrition assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP is one of the six major welfare programs in the U.S.: EITC, housing assistance, Medicaid, SSI, and TANF.


Hunger and Food Insecurity | Large Complex Problems

In 2020, before the Coronavirus pandemic, 38 million Americans—1 in 9—qualified for SNAP; 42 percent of these were working families (including almost 12 million children) unable to make ends meet.

Food insecurity does not exist in isolation. Extensive research reveals this insecurity is a complex problem.

Low-income families are affected by multiple, overlapping issues like lack of affordable housing, social isolation, and economic and social disadvantage. These issues are a result of structural racism, chronic or acute health problems, high medical costs, and low wages.

Although hunger and food insecurity are closely related, they are distinct concepts. Food insecurity impacts every community in the United States.

If you rely on government assistance of any kind, here's a bit of good news. You can use SNAP benefits to purchase seeds or plant seedlings to grow your own food. Buying seeds and growing produce-bearing plants can save you a lot of money.


Nutrition Assistance & SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits to supplement the budgets of needy families to purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. It's been helping those in need since the 1930s and the Great Depression.

The USDA encourages participants to use SNAP benefits to buy seeds and seedlings.

It makes sense to use food stamps to grow your own food. It's a wise investment in your efforts to eat good and healthy foods. Vegetable seeds, herbs, fruit trees, tomato plants, and vegetable "starts" can all be purchased with your food stamps benefits. "Starts" or seedlings are baby plants that have been planted from seeds and grown out by other people. These 'plant-lings' have already acclimated to the outdoors and are ready to finish out their lives in your garden.


What can I buy with SNAP benefits?

You can use benefits to buy many SNAP-eligible foods for your household


  • Fruits, vegetables, and herbs
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Bread, cereals, and other baked goods
  • Maple syrup, pickled goods, jam, honey, dressings, and cider
  • Seeds or plants to grow food


It might be challenging to find stores that accept SNAP payments and sell seeds or seedlings. Just use the internet and call local stores. Unfortunately, many retailers are unaware of this benefit, so you may need to refer them to the USDA website:


Apply in your home state to get the benefits. You also must meet specific requirements, including resource and income limits.



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