Now in its sixth year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allows and encourages recipients to use their Michigan Bridge Cards to buy fruit, vegetable and herb plants at local stores and farmers' markets.
Most food retailers in Michigan accept the Michigan Bridge Card, or electronic benefits transfer, for people participating in the federal nutrition program. In 2008, the federal Food Stamp Program was renamed SNAP to promote a greater focus on nutrition.
Since 2006, farmers' markets in Michigan have been working to increase access for SNAP recipients to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, and to direct those federal dollars to support more local agricultural production. Now all retailers that accept SNAP benefits, including local farmers' market, can sell seeds and plants to people who use the Michigan Bridge Card.
Families can stretch their food assistance dollars even further by investing them in a household garden. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data indicates that an investment of $1 can yield up to $25 worth of fresh food. Michigan State University Extension is providing fact sheets and tip sheets about starting seeds at home and selecting healthy transplants for SNAP recipients and all gardeners.
Learning how to preserve that harvest can also enable people to improve their control of their diet and budget.
SNAP benefits are allocated to households on the basis of household income and the number of persons in that household. To qualify, households must have monthly gross income of less than 130% of the federal poverty guidelines, which is equivalent to $30,000 annually for a family of four. About half of those served by SNAP are children. A 2012 USDA report on the program says, in fiscal year 2011, SNAP provided on average $134 per person to 44.7 million individuals in 21.1 million households each month.
To learn more about SNAP, visit the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service Web site.