TULSA, Okla. (AP) The number of Oklahomans receiving food stamps is nearing record levels, and human services officials expect the trend to continue.
In January, the state missed the record by 746 people, said Department of Human Services spokesman George Johnson. The highest number of people receiving food stamps in one month came in December 2005 with 443,045 people. Last month, 442,299 Oklahomans were given food stamps.
“That is the second-highest total in history,” Johnson said. “They are approaching the record. If things continue in the economy the way they are going, more than likely, that record will be broken.”
An unexpected job layoff took Tulsa resident Deseree Cook from inquiring into a first-time homebuyer program to being a first-time food stamp applicant. Cook had been working in the accounting department of a welding distribution company and paying down debts to build credit for a home purchase. But when she lost her job Jan. 30, she changed to survival mode.
“I took one day off to gather my thoughts, try to figure out what to do and get over what happened,” Cook said. “But then I filed for unemployment and looked at getting food stamps for the first time.”
Food stamp benefits amount to an average of about $3 a day.
“It is a supplemental nutritional assistance program,” Johnson said. “To make up the rest, they either have their own resources, go to all kinds of food pantries and some do without.”
The program is an eligibility program based on 130 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a family of three may not have a monthly income exceeding $1,900. A formula is used to determine the amount of food stamps allowed for clients with assets such as cars or unemployment income.
As a single person, Cook said she has not qualified for many nonprofit and government programs because she does not have dependents. She usually spends about $200 to $250 a month on food and plans to be a thrifty shopper, buying items on sale and in food co-ops, such as Angel Food Ministries.
“I'm single and didn't think I would qualify,” Cook said. “But this affects all of us. Any bit will help me, and I'm good when it comes to grocery shopping and making the dollar stretch.”