I looked at my suddenly weed-filled garden and groaned. My back hurt just looking at it. The spinach and carrot seedlings were being overrun by the crabgrass, which would have to be weeded by hand rather than by a hoe to avoid damaging tender plants, but otherwise I was pleased with its progress. The tomatoes all sported yellow blossoms, and the broccoli and melons had grown several inches. The strawberries had already produced a pint-sized crop of sweet deliciousness and were on their way to another.
The weird early and mild spring had been good for my garden. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was proud of my accomplishment. The $40 I invested of my SNAP benefits would by provide approximately $100 in organic vegetables this year. And, the perennial strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus would eventually produce hundreds of dollars more.
I am grateful for my SNAP benefits; I know we would go hungry without them. However, the amount we receive dictates that each meal we purchase remain under two dollars per person. It is impossible to feed my family the organic, whole fruits and vegetables that I believe are best for us on that budget. It is the garden and the ability to purchase seeds and seedlings with SNAP benefits that allows me to fill that gap.
My ultimate goal for my garden is continue enlarging it with perennials and by harvesting seeds, until it is large enough to keep us in fresh fruits and vegetables during the growing season and fill a chest freezer for the winter. The back aches and few meatless meals that we have to endure to fund and grow our nourishing garden are worth the effort; it helps us get one step closer to self-sufficiency and long term security.
Another of my long term self-sufficiency goals—my education—which I have tended just as carefully as my garden is coming along nicely. At a recent meeting with a favored professor, I discovered I have just six more classes to graduate with my master’s degree. Every step I take toward self-sufficiency is slow and some are painful, but each step brings us closer to the finish line and we are almost there.
However, I worry that this current legislation to reduce SNAP benefits to needy families could cause more bumps in the road for my family and millions more; many poor families will likely be forced to turn to local food banks and other charities—if available—to fill that hole. Others will simply go hungry. I hope to graduate and find permanent employment before that ax falls.
Michelle Gluch is a Canyon County author and photographer with more than fifty Idaho based stories, articles, and photographs published in print and on the Internet, including Huffington Post. Her writings are rich with details of her home in Southwestern Idaho.
Michelle holds a BA in English with a writing emphasis, from Boise State University and is currently pursuing an MA in Composition and Rhetoric. She will be publishing her first book, “Under My Idaho Sky” with Mill Park Publishing this fall. Updates regarding her book and other information can be found at www.millparkpublishing.com.
Note: This essay originally appeared on the Feeding America website.