I have been noticing lots of ink lately in USDA press releases about a little known aspect of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Food Stamp Program defines food as “seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce for the personal consumption of the eligible household.” (7 U.S.C.S Section 2012(k)(2)).
Farmers markets in New York have eagerly sought out SNAP customers. It is the equitable thing to do; beneficiaries participate in the local food system and receive great nutrition. Facilitating access to markets is also good business for farmers. SNAP beneficiaries are an important part of the customer base in most markets. Producers can rely on the steady stream of income from program sales to support their prices. Farmers understand that they are thus secondary beneficiaries of the Program.
Garden centers should use the ‘seeds as food’ language of the Act to pursue SNAP customers, and dollars, with the same zeal that market managers have. SNAP recipients reap a greater harvest with their entitlement. Garden centers can create a steady customer base and become the secondary beneficiaries of the program. Win-win.