Saturday, July 19, 2014

Should It Be Required That Food Stamps Recipients Grow Their Own Vegetable Gardens?


Garden-Tomatoes


Years ago, when it wasn't popular to have a vegetable garden and when Chicago still had housing projects, I stumbled into a neighborhood near my apartment called the Ida B. Wells, housing projects.  The homes at that time were dilapidated row houses with dirt instead of lawns in most of the front yards.  In the midst of dirt and trash on the curb were a few homes that had replaced their dirt yards with full blown vegetable gardens. If I remember correctly, these gardens had bell peppers, collards, cabbage, corn, lettuce, beans and probably a few more things I may not recall at this time. This really got my attention because when I was a teenager, I tried my hand at growing vegetables in my parent's backyard.  Eventually, I stopped and talk to two elderly ladies tending their gardens.

I asked what they were growing and when would they harvest their food.  Then I asked;  "Why aren't your neighbors growing vegetable as you are doing?" They told me they tried to get them involved but they simply weren't interested.  For those who remember; during those early 1990's years, the country was at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, and I spotted a few people walking around that looked quite spent.  I nodded and expressed how much I had wanted a garden but unfortunately I lived in an apartment located on the 22nd floor of a building -- not exactly a prime location to grow zucchini!

Fast forward to 2014 -- I have maintained a vegetable garden every year since I moved into my home over a decade ago.  It wasn't until a couple of years back that I thought about the Ida B. Wells gardeners and how growing a garden could be beneficial to a family, especially a poor one. Should food stamp recipients who have adequate space be encouraged to maintain seasonal vegetable gardens?


If they own a home and have the space, I think they should consider vegetable garden.  Consuming more fruits and vegetable is known to contribute to a healthier diet.  Why spend precious money in a store buying vegetable when they can be produced cheaply at home?

Growing your own food can supplement your groceries and allow you to save a reasonable amount of money.  I have a kale salad for lunch almost everyday in the summer and it's more or less free because kale and tomatoes are some of the many plants I grow each year.

I think a simple lifestyle change that incorporates gardening could be a great way for people living below the poverty line to improve their diet and enjoy a more sustainable existence.

Let me know what you think?





20 comments:

  1. I think its a good idea, but shouldn't be a requirement. Maybe some training on it could be made available? But if I were on food stamps, I'd be in trouble because I have such a black thumb despite my best efforts. Around here I've noticed they make special WIC checks for the farmers markets which seems like a good idea along the same thread.

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    1. Thanks Femme, I have friends who won't grow things because they are afraid of bugs. I guess they wouldn't make great farmers.

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  2. Encouraged - Definitely! Required? No
    I have a family member on food stamps who works hard at a physical job all day, and then, yes, he comes home and tends a garden to supplement his family's food supply. I'm really proud of him for that.

    But, many people on food stamps cannot do this for a reason that might not qualify as a "disability" - a child with a severe illness who requires full time care, a very bad back (like mine), a severe sun problem (like mine - I get 2nd degree burns in less than 1 hour sun exposure, a low IQ, etc.

    And, a *requirement* would add one more layer of government red tape - do we really want to start hiring "garden inspectors" for poor neighborhoods?

    I think it would be far better - as the previous commenter stated - to offer classes in how to garden, and maybe things like free rototilling, and a hand tool/supplies lending library to make it so that a person could do it without all the fancy equipment.

    Oh, and many states *already* let people buy seeds with their food stamps : )

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    1. Classes are a good idea, I haven't thought about.

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    2. The classes are a wonderful idea! I don't know about the supplies lending; too many things get broken/stolen.

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  3. I'm not sure if everyone would have the real estate to do this, but like the general idea of teaching/ educating those on food stamps about growing their own food or basic budgeting concepts. We have to get people in poverty to be thing beyond just the handouts and improving their situations.

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  4. In Madison, you used to could rent a garden plot for the summer. I know this because my sister and her husband did this before they had a yard. Too bad their couldn't be a community garden where the volunteers could get free produce and those who didn't volunteer could use their food stamps to purchase veggies. I imagine my idea is to simplistic to work in our bureaucratic polarized political system.

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  5. I agree with what other people have suggested: Mandating it would be too much of a burden on both the individuals and the government, but it's definitely a great suggestion to encourage it! I've been growing my own basil this summer, and plan to move to vegetables, since my plant has miraculously survived! #wowlinkup

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  6. Hmm interesting idea. I think it would be beneficial for them but don't think we could require it. #wowlinkup

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  7. Yes! It is amazing idea! Fortunately for me, I have too many neighbors that have gardens and abundantly supply all my vegetable needs for the summer! I used to have my own garden, hubby did most of the work, but it just became too much work and our yearly getaway happens pretty much when everything is ready to be picked. And, now we have labs that would tear apart my garden until I put the work into building a way to keep them out! So,for now I LOVE all my neighbors, we usually keep them in supply of fish and they keep us in supply of veggies! Great Post!!!! XOXO, Laurie~ #wowlinkup

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  8. I've seen a lot of urban gardening programs to increase food security in urban slums in Cambodia, India, etc. I think it would be great to bring a similar program providing technical assistance and support (but not requiring participation) to the US! #wowlinkup

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  9. I think it is a good idea but should not be made a requirement. Some folks can't do it or want to do it. I love gardening but my pots aren't getting it. I need a solution but I have critters around my house so I am afraid to plant in the ground. #wowlkinkup

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  10. Hi Sheila,
    I just hopped by from #wowlinkup. I think it is a great idea to encourage food stamp recipients to grow their own food by gardening. This is an excellent way to ensure that the family has greater access to fresh vegetables and fruits. It is a great way for children to learn how food is grown and to appreciate eating healthier food. Children are more apt to eat foods that they participate in growing. I grew up with a vegetable garden in my backyard and I loved to pick, prepare and eat the produce! That's probably why I am such a big veggie lover now!

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  11. I think this is a great idea. Maybe not as a requirement, but I think it would be great if these families could be given the resources to learn how to start a garden if they would like to do so. I remember a few years back my husband and I were on a bike ride through a city. I suddenly started feeling very lightheaded and we got off the path to find a quick snack. I couldn't find any fresh, healthy foods anywhere in this economically depressed area. It made me feel so sad that the only option for people who lived there was junk food. I've also had similar experiences as a teacher in an underprivileged school. I think it would be wonderful to add gardening not only to homes, but to schools as well. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I think this is a great idea and should be encouraged and there should be more information on it for anyone interested. But it shouldn't be required and I'm sure some people have no idea how to garden and some people just aren't good at it. I know people who just can't grow or keep anything alive. Most people probably think you need a decent sized yard to have a vegetable garden but there are such things as square foot gardening and you can grow almost anything in containers for a balcony garden, even corn. I've had a vegetable garden every year for the last decade and I enjoy it but it is a lot of work. If someone is working multiple jobs or really long hours they probably won't have the time or energy to put into a garden. #wowlinkup

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  13. I agree with what most people said. Requirement, no. Encouraged, sure. We probably should all be encouraged and trained to do so. I know I wish we had one. I like the idea of a community garden as well. #wowlinkup

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  14. I think the encouragement, like a few people mentioned, would be great! Some people will never do things to help themselves and that is something that is inevitable; but to the ones who do, like the guy mentioned in Anna@stuffedveggies's comment. And the suggestion to educate the people -- great also! I know I am personally not on FS but have educated my family (of 2) about budgeting and started said budget and we are slowly working our way out of debt...All it takes is the initiative. Yeah the real estate is a problem for some and resources might be scarce. But what about (i see it already mentioned) lending supplies or having donated supplies readily available with resources on the 'how-to' for those who choose to? I would take advantage of that for sure if I were in the position. Course this also coming from a girl who now having moved out of a house into an apt, would kill to have a garden! #wowlinkup

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  15. Inspiration, encouragement might work for some. I love gardening in containers on my roof. I was amazed how much joy and food a few planters can bring. True, it takes initiative and maybe sharing the love to get others going. See today's NYT article:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/garden/mother-natures-daughters.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A5%22}&_r=0

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  16. Encouraging for sure. Government involvement and as a requirement, I don't think so. Too much bureaucracy. Container gardening is a great way to go. Not everyone is interested in or want to grow their own food (unfortunately!). However, workshops and training classes held by some local non-profits and/or farmer's market is a possibility.

    Partnering with local non-profits and established groups who are working on sustainability projects could make the educational/workshop component a reality. Sounds like you're on to something. Reach out to a few of them in your locale and see what feedback you get. Just some "food for thought"!

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