New SNAP Benefits “Plant the Seeds” for a Healthier Kentucky

On the first warm weekend in March, my husband enlisted our daughters to help him prepare our vegetable garden beds and plant the first seeds – carrots, lettuce, kale, and swiss chard. Already, the green seedlings have sprouted and we are well on our way to some delicious home grown veggies. Later this summer, we will relish the vision of our daughters pulling the full grown carrots out of the garden with the beautiful green leaves still attached, hose the dirt off, and eat them right there on the spot.

Planting these seeds accomplishes all kinds of priorities we have as parents: Our children are learning where food comes from, long before it hits the grocery store shelves. They are learning how much better fresh grown food tastes—and hopefully will be more likely to eat the kale and swiss chard because they helped to plant it. They are learning values like patience and self-reliance. And of course, planting a garden builds lasting bonds with the earth and our family. I have fond memories of doing the very same thing with my dad.

In order to help all Kentucky families form stronger connections with the earth and their food, SNAP benefits can now be used to help families grow their own food and support local farmers. For instance, families who participate in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) can use their benefits to purchase seeds or seedlings. This policy makes all kinds of sense. As volunteer Reggie Price explains in the article “For $2 to $3 you can buy tomatoes at the store with your EBT card, but if you get a plant, you can get tomatoes all summer long.” The Louisville Grows project has now started offering these seeds and seedlings at locations around town, to help families learn about and utilize this benefit.

In Lexington, Bluegrass Farm to Table received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund a pilot program to essentially double the value of SNAP benefits when they are used to purchase local produce. For every $10 participants spend on local produce, they will get a voucher for an additional $10 to spend on more fresh, frozen or canned produce. This innovative program capitalizes on the reality that we are all more likely to make better nutrition choices if it’s affordable and available.

And who couldn’t resist the obvious pun inherent in all of this? These innovative policies and projects supporting locally grown food and better access to nutritious fruits and vegetables are planting the seeds for a healthier, more sustainable Kentucky. That’s good news for all Kentucky families.

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