Did you know that you can buy plants with your EBT card? In order to do so, you need to know which stores are likely to participate in SNAP, which plants are eligible under the program, and how to inform store owners or workers about the eligibility of such items under the program. Purchasing plants and seeds with your EBT card can make your money go a long way. Here is some information about how plants qualify for the program and some tips on making your next trip to the grocery store successful.
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Plants and seeds are eligible food items under Section 3 (g) (2) of the Food Stamp Act of 1977. Your EBT card can be used to purchase plants or seeds that grow food, thereby increasing your spending power by allowing your SNAP benefits go further. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages SNAP recipients to buy plants and seeds, noting that “For every $1 spent on seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce”. Plants and seeds that are eligible for purchase with your EBT card include those that produce asparagus, onions, peas, tomatoes, and any other plant that produces vegetables, fruits, or herbs.
Growing food at home has multiple benefits. As noted by the USDA, growing food at home with plants or seeds purchased with your EBT card can maximize the power of your benefits and increase the efficiency of the entire program. In addition, growing food at home increases the nutrition and quality of the food you consume. Home grown produce has no – or very little – additives or harmful chemicals. You also won’t have to pay for the transportation costs of your food, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions and climate change.
So where exactly can you use your EBT card when purchasing plants and seeds? The best place to do so is at a store in which you already use your EBT card or that you know accepts EBT payment. In addition to local supermarkets, farmers markets are increasingly accepting EBT payment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a search tool to help find if your local farmers market accepts EBT. Under the filter for payment accepted, select “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. If your farmers market is listed, you may use your EBT card there to purchase plants and seeds.
While this use of SNAP benefits is legally valid and written into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), retailers might be unaware that plants and seeds are qualifying purchases with EBT cards. If a store clerk declines to accept your EBT card, it is likely due to a computing error. Ask to speak to a manager, and cite the Eligible Food Items listed on the USDA website. You may also cite the 2018 memo released by the USDA that clarifies the legitimacy of these purchases.
Due to fees and the software needed to become a retailer under the SNAP, a retailer must first register to be part of the program if they want to sell any items to customers with EBT cards. The process can be considered expensive for some retailers, and those who do not have a large amount of food items in their inventory may not be interested in taking the time to become registered. In addition, stores that do not regularly hold food inventory or have food sales are ineligible for the program. Thus, home improvement stores such as Lowes or Home Depot – while having a large inventory of seeds and plants – do not accept EBT cards.
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For more information on SNAP benefits, how retailers participate in the program, and how you can use your EBT card to purchase plants and seeds, visit the following sources, including LowIncomeRelief.com.