LIMA — In Allen County, one in six people receives government assistance to purchase food.
The number sounds astonishing and is double the unemployment rate in the county.
Each recipient gets an average of $200 a month to purchase food for his or her household, said Joe Patton, investigations supervisor for the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services.
While single mothers are the biggest group receiving food assistance, there are single fathers, elderly and even two-parent households with both parents working but not making enough money. A family of four can earn nearly $2,500 per month and still qualify for food assistance, said Gretta Arnett, administrator for public assistance in Auglaize County.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, is essential for some people who rely on it to eat. It’s a federal program administered at the local level.
Terrie Dillon, Auglaize County Department of Job and Family Services eligibility referral and fraud supervisor, said more than half the people on the program work but don’t make enough money.
“We see a lot of sad situations where people truly are trying their best, and their best just isn’t good enough,” Dillon said.
Angel Bates, of Lima, works a part-time job at $7.75 an hour, just above minimum wage, while trying to find a full-time job. But Bates said employers just don’t want to give people full-time hours because full-time employees add health insurance costs.
“I have a job, I just can’t afford food and rent and electricity and gas,” she said.
Bates, who is single without children, was at the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services on Tuesday, applying for food assistance. She said she needs it to survive.
“The money I’m spending on food could go to the electric bill or gas to get to work,” she said.
Bates said there are a lot of good people, like herself, on the food program just trying to make it. She’s not ashamed, Bates said, it’s just a sign of the times and the struggles people face in Lima and across the country.
Dillon said the majority of people want to work but they have low-paying jobs.
“Unfortunately, the people who are not honest give a bad name to those people who are legitimately eligible and just can’t get by,” she said.