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March 14, 2023
photo of Gary Oppenheimer in a garden Gary Oppenheimer

Photo by Mike Mozart

SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly referred to as “food stamps”) is a federal program that helps millions of Americans purchase the food they need at local stores or online, with the government helping to pay for it.   It’s America’s nutritional lifeline to food insecure families.

What isn’t widely known is that the USDA’s guidance on the SNAP program not only includes the food you would expect (fruits, veggies, meat, dairy, breads, etc.) but also includes buying plants (including herbs) such as those from Bonnie Plants (an amazing supporter of that will produce edible foods.

Imagine going to a supermarket that accepts SNAP (find them here) or even Amazon and buying your normal groceries PLUS buying tomato plants (or whatever you like) for around $15, but then harvesting 20 pounds of tomatoes over the season that would have cost you around $44 in the store.

The advantage of buying plants rather than seeds (SNAP does pay for them too) which can take weeks to grow is that the plant is already well on its way towards producing food when you take it home.   If you buy potted herbs, you can immediately start using them – no waiting for the fruit to grow and ripen.

If you happen to be one of the tens of millions of Americans getting assistance from a local food pantry and you happen to be a gardener, you may have the opportunity to donate your surplus harvests, if you have one, to your food pantry, thereby helping your neighbors in need while you yourself are getting assistance.

See if your food pantry is listed on  If it is, great – donate that surplus harvest.

If it isn’t, show this flier  to the pantry staff and encourage them to join (remind them it is totally free!) to enable you and other nearby gardeners to donate garden fresh food.

These are difficult times for millions of families.  Using your SNAP benefits to grow some of your own food helps to lessen the pain, and donating your surplus harvest will also help the community.

Knowing that you are nourishing your family and your neighbors in need will put a smile on your face. And someone else’s too.

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