Close to 17,000 receiving gov't food aid in Valley, more applying

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

More than 46.6 million people across the country are receiving government food assistance according to new numbers from June of this year.

Colorado saw the eighth biggest increase in people needing food assistance from last June, jumping 6.4 percent. That's according to the Food Research and Action Center. Locally, we're also continuing to see these numbers rise as buying food gets more difficult for some.

She never really thought it would be her, but when you add up rent, utilities and caring for her little one, some things are harder to buy.

"I never thought I would have to [apply for food assistance]," Grand Junction resident Santana Kelly said.

Kelly has applied for food assistance twice now.

"I tried applying when I was six months pregnant with my son. I was working and going to school at the time and I was denied," Kelly said.

She applied again when she was no longer working and on maternity leave from school, but again, she was told no.

"It seems like you have to put you're homeless, or you have to do this and that to even get food stamps, you have to lie to get food stamps," Kelly said.

Numbers show there are many more like her in Mesa County.

"We continue to see an upswing in the number of applications and our caseload here in Mesa County," Mesa County Health Department spokesperson Karen Martsolf said.

In July, there were 668 food assistance applications turned in to the Mesa County Health Department. Compare that with pre-recession numbers in July of 2007, just 343 applications. This month, there were just over 7,800 food assistance caseloads in the county, a number that has increased steadily since the 3,500 caseloads in August of 2007.

"That number of cases equates to a lot more people because a case represents a household," Martsolf explained.

That means there are an estimated 17,000 people receiving food assistance in Mesa County, an upward trend that matches both the state and national growth in government food aid. Some reasons point to the economy.

"A lot of people have lost their jobs; a lot of people quit and couldn't find a job because of the economy,” Kelly said.

The Mesa County Health Department says its caseloads run parallel with the economy, so this upward trend is no surprise. Instead, it's a trend many are hoping will turn around soon.

The county says many of the people who are applying for food assistance now are people who have never needed public assistance before. Since June of 2007, the number of people in our state needing food assistance has grown 96.7 percent.

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