Food stamp use in Tampa Bay area at record high - FOX 13 News

Food stamp use in Tampa Bay area at record high

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Florida's unemployment numbers have steadily dropped, and yet, many are still hurting. Last month, the number of people using food stamps in the Bay Area hit a new, all-time high.

Experts say even though more people are finding work, they're still struggling to make ends meet.

In many cases, they're finding part-time work, instead of full-time jobs. Many are also working fewer hours for less money.

Without food stamps, hundreds of thousands of families say they would go hungry without them.

"It helps a lot, a lot, especially if you have kids. It helps," said Brian Moran, who lost his job eight months ago. Moran says food stamps make the difference between going hungry and putting food on the table.

"Milk, bread, a lot of soup. It lasts, but if they take that away, I don't know," he said.

In Hillsborough County alone last month, more than 270,000 people depended on food stamps. When you include Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Manatee And Sarasota Counties, the number jumps to more than 738,000 and more than half of them are children.

And it's not just families who are struggling; so are a lot of the elderly.

Here in the Tampa Bay area, the Florida Department of Children and Families says about 40,000 seniors are on food stamps.

"It's a help though, while you get it, just for you to be on there until you're able to care for yourself," says Laconstance McAllister, a married mother of five. McAllister says she's desperate for a job -- one with a reliable paycheck. She and her family have been homeless three times.

"I got my GED and I went a couple of years and got administrative assistant at Irwin Technical. So I'm now looking at getting my Bachelors in human resources," McAllister said.

Terri Durdaller, with DCF, says Department of Children and Families says McAllister's story is not unusual.

"It's someone who's struggling and going through a really hard time in their life and they just need a little bit extra," she said.

 The number of people on food stamps is up about 10 percent from this time last year. But month to month, it's up by only one percent.

DCF says it may be a good sign.

"As the economy continues to improve, we expect these numbers to level off and hopefully decrease," Durdaller says.

But Brian Moran, who says he graduated from USF with an engineering degree, isn't so sure.

"I was almost making $70,000 a year in Colorado. I come here and I can't even get a job at a grocery store," he said.

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