News & Success Stories

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Benefits Buy Food Seeds: Gardening to Grow Your Food Budget

Post Date:03/19/2024 11:56 AM

3x banner Benefits Buy Seeds Gardening Project

Submitted by County of San Diego CalFresh Healthy Living


Due to rising housing costs and inflation, many households struggle to find a way to feed their families. Gardening can be a great way to grow food at home to stretch and sustain food budgets.

Did you know that those who receive CalFresh Food Benefits can use their EBT cards to buy food items, plus seeds and plants that grow food for their household to eat?

This gives people an option to increase the fruits and vegetables that are available to them to feed their families. It also inspired the creation of the “Maximizing Food Sovereignty: Gardening and Food Preservation Training & Resources for Families” program piloted through a partnership between the County of San Diego’s CalFresh Healthy Living program and the University of California Cooperative Extension.

The program provides CalFresh-eligible individuals and families with the education and skills they need to garden and preserve food. This partnership fostered further collaboration between UC Master Gardeners and UC Master Food Preservers to provide gardening education and food preservation workshops to low-income communities in locations across San Diego County, including food distribution sites, schools, and churches.

The team at the University of California Cooperative Extension developed curriculum for a series of Basics of Gardening and Food Preservation workshops to encourage community members to use container gardening methods to grow food using a patio, porch, or windowsill. The program also encouraged participants to join a community garden to gain access to more growing space, to preserve produce safely, and to reduce food waste.

Workshops on basic gardening included learning how to plan, plant, and maintain a container garden. Hands-on learning activities, such as planting seeds and transplanting seedlings, allowed participants to practice what they learned during the workshop, so they could successfully garden at home. Participants also learned the essential elements of growing food, such as giving plants the right amount of sunlight, selecting the appropriate soil, and properly watering plants. UC Master Gardeners emphasized the importance of reading the backs of seed packets for clear instructions on planting seeds for a rich harvest, as well as keeping a journal to track the gardening process.

Along with learning to grow their own food, participants learned the principles of food preparation and preservation to ensure food safety and reduce food waste. Participants learned about the four steps of food safety — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill – and practiced simple techniques they could use at home such as air drying, vacuum sealing, and refrigerated pickling.

Participants reported that they greatly enjoyed these workshops and were excited to apply their knowledge of properly growing, preparing, and preserving food to their home and in community gardens. They appreciated the hands-on instruction and getting to take their plants home.

The UC Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers hope to continue offering classes on the topics of basic gardening and food preservation. The community is hungry for this knowledge, and providing more training can help them sustain their gardens and stretch their food dollars to feed their families.

Empowering the community to grow and preserve their own food can help them make healthier food choices and lead to improved self-sufficiency and a sense of accomplishment.

You can find resources related to gardening in the SNAP-Ed Library or on the Master Gardeners Association websites.

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