SNAP Gardens founder Daniel Bowman Simon. (Photo by: Chris Bernabeo)
One man's mission: teaching millions of food stamp users how to grow their own vegetables.
In 2008, when Daniel Bowman Simon
was traveling the country gathering signatures to petition the White House to plant an organic garden, a woman approached him at a farmers' market. "She said, "If you really want to make a difference, you should get the word out that food stamps can be used to buy food-bearing seeds and plants,'" says Simon, 32, a graduate student in urban planning at New York University. "I found out that even though this provision has been around since 1973, most people didn't know it existed."
So last year, Simon founded SNAP Gardens, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word. More than 46 million Americans are covered under the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Simon's group has created materials in 18 languages that farmers' markets, grocery stores, seed retailers, and others can use to let SNAP participants know about the provision. And snapgardens.org tells readers where to purchase seeds and plants or find a space to garden.
"I don't have a lot of money to spend on groceries, but it's important to me to feed my family high-quality food, so growing with food stamps is a blessing," says Elizabeth C.*, of Hallstead, Pa., who learned about SNAP Gardens this spring when a friend emailed her a link to the organization's website. "I've had a vegetable garden for years, and now all my anxieties about not having enough seeds started for the season have vanished."
Simon acknowledges that people who depend on food stamps often face barriers to growing their own food—a lack of available land in particular—but he notes, "Participants can use community or church gardens. I want to help people take advantage of every resource available."
*Name has been changed.
Learn more about how you can get involved from SNAP Gardens.
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