But I digress. The point of this was that I saw a label on some asparagus spears I had never noticed before:
There is a pretty common saying about giving a man a fish allows him to eat for a day, whereas teaching a man to fish can help feed him for a lifetime. I'd argue the same applies here. Some plants, like tomatoes or peppers, will feed you only for a season, but a well-tended plant will produce more peppers than you could buy from the store for the same amount of money. Buying perennials or trees can feed you for years to come, but only if you have access to land to plant on, which is not always true for low income folks. But even those in an apartment can have a few plants on a sunny windowsill or porch. And freshly picked produce is healthier, as it has more nutrients (nutrients degrade over time, so the longer they are in storage, the less vitamins you're really getting). Heirloom varieties also often are more nutritious than commercial counterparts. Beyond the nutritional value are a host of other benefits, too. Gardening makes you get up and move, contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Caring for a plant connects you with nature and botany and the whole circle-of-life thing. It reconnects us to where food really comes from. Caring for a living thing, even a plant, can be a great responsibility and teaching tool for youngsters. It hones a valuable skill, gardening, that can be useful for a lifetime. It can provide a small dose of self-sufficiency, enabling the recipient to be more responsible for his or her own food, and just maybe a window into providing more for yourself and needing less taxpayer-subsidized help. It can mean so much more than fresh tomatoes.
The only unfortunate part about this is that I'm not sure many folks know about it. Whether or not food stamps should be able to purchase steak or cigarettes gets a lot of press and a lot of dissenting opinions, but this is left in the background. I think that's wrong, so I'm trying to do my part to spread the message about something positive. And I know there are obstacles for many folks receiving SNAP benefits- access to garden space, frequent moves, lack of gardening know-how. But I also see that it's a wonderful opportunity for some!