In December, that number reached 650,000, a record for a single month. Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP - is up 39 percent over two years. Yet requirements for obtaining food stamps haven't changed in years.
More than 30 percent of all the children in the state are SNAP recipients. Food stamps, distributed by the DHS, are a benefit funded 100 percent by federal funds. The monthly benefit cost is about $75 million with the average benefit totaling $4.22 per person per day, or about $1.47 per meal.
During fiscal 2010, almost 800,000 Oklahomans received food stamps - a record-breaking year. DHS distributed $865 million in food benefits, a 46 percent increase over the previous year and double the amount distributed five years ago.
What is most alarming is that the need has continued to climb so significantly, with increases for 33 straight months. The poor appear to be remaining poor despite some encouraging signs for other parts of the economy here, and there is no end in sight. Numbers for 2011 likely will be higher, said DHS Director Howard Hendrick.
"There are more poor than ever in Oklahoma and no (extra) money" in the state budget to accommodate the growth in need. "This is the most challenging dilemma I've ever seen," Hendrick said. While DHS does not fund food stamps, it is responsible for a number of other nutrition programs.
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