- Inform SNAP recipients that food-producing plants and seeds are allowable purchases! Hang up posters in SNAP offices and in locations where the government promotes and/or facilitates gardening. Post information on bulletin boards in community centers and public housing sites.
- Include information about gardening with SNAP benefits during SNAP pre-screening and in SNAP enrollment packet, Include reminders in subsequent correspondence. Suffolk County, New York legislated the provision of this information in a dedicated cover letter, which can be seen here: http://www.SNAPgardens.org/legislation
- Make sure outreach is translated and culturally sensitive. USDA’s State Partner Outreach Toolkit features a guide: Engaging Special Populations: Cultural Competency http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/pdfs/toolkit/2011/State/tool-kits_state.htm
- If your SNAP office plays videos in the waiting room, include this information in general education videos and consider a video specifically about gardening.
- Include information about gardening with SNAP benefits in staff trainings for municipal employees who interact with SNAP clients.
- Include information in correspondence with all area SNAP EBT retailers, including farmers markets, to ensure that they know that food-producing plants and seeds are eligible purchases. Suggest that they promote to customers. Check to ensure that retailer systems are programmed properly to classify plant and seed purchases as SNAP eligible. (Some cases have been reported where SNAP recipients are asked to pay cash for seeds or plants, creating an uncomfortable situation at the register.)
- Honor gardeners who have increased access to healthy affordable food by gardening with their SNAP benefits (Confirm that they are comfortable being acknowledged as SNAP recipients. If they are not, honor them anyway, without mentioning SNAP.)
- Ask SNAP recipients who have chosen to use some of their benefits to garden about their ideas on how to encourage more gardening with SNAP benefits.
- Provide gardening education opportunities. USDA SNAP-Ed guidance allows for garden-based nutrition education. See page 94 of http://www.nal.usda.gov/fsn/Guidance/FY2013SNAP-EdPlanGuidance.pdf. Also, see our blog about the changes from FY2012 to FY2013 here: http://www.SNAPgardens.org/2012/04/more-gardening-opportunities-in-fy-2013-snap-ed-guidance/
- Convene an inter-bureau working group to create a “Growing Food in the City” (or Suburbs or Countryside) guide similar to efforts of Seattle, Washington municipal government: http://www.seattle.gov/util/Services/Yard/Natural_Lawn_&_Garden_Care/GrowingFoodintheCity/ Ensure that the guide provides information specific to SNAP recipients. Make copies available at the SNAP offices and other locations that serve a large number of SNAP clients.
- Connect with your local Master Gardener program and encourage them to offer gardening support to SNAP participants: http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/
- Hold events to introduce available resources (community gardens, tool-lending libraries), and provide gardening education.
- Inform principals and teachers at schools with gardens. Students can tell their parents and other family members, and even teach their family and friends some gardening skills. This must be done tactfully in order to avoid stigmatizing particular students.
- Identify vacant lots and yards in neighborhoods with high densities of SNAP recipients and work with community to turn such land into community gardens.
- Work with public libraries to start and operate garden tool-lending libraries. If the libraries have grounds available, also facilitate gardens there. For example, the LibraryFarm is an organic community garden on one-half acre of land owned by Northern Onondaga Public Library in Cicero, NY. Anyone can “check out” a plot at no cost: http://www.nopl.org/library-farm
- Make sure that your local farmers markets are equipped to accept SNAP, especially those operated by local government. If they are not, help them out: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/fm.htm
- Incorporate composting of organic matter into municipal recycling programs, then host compost giveaways or sell compost to SNAP recipients at a reduced rate.
Have questions? Have solutions you’d like to share? Email us at government@SNAPgardens.org