SARASOTA, Fla.- A recent study says nationally, for the first time, working-age people make up the majority of households who rely on food stamps. A switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients of the government assistance program.
Florida Department of Children and Families say those who are 20-59 years of age account for nearly 49% of food assistance in Sarasota and Manatee county. Over the last 5 years, the number of working age applicants has steadily increased.
Over 46,000 people, ages 20-59, receive food assistance in Manatee and Sarasota counties with a 34% increase over the past 5 years.
According to the Associated Press, the slow economic recovery and the increasing gap between low-wage and high-skill jobs play a role.
"The economy being so slow; a lot of people are coming for assistance,” says Christian Duvall, a working-age food stamp recipient.
Tyanna Brown is a single mother and the sole bread winner for her two young girls, her mother and sisters. She's applying for food stamps because her minimum wage paying job isn't bringing in enough.
"Even though I sometimes work overtime, being that there is not enough people working there, it's still not enough when you have bills and you have two kids that you need to feed plus yourself and you have other people that you need to feed that are also in the household. It's not enough,” says Brown.
Mostly working-age individuals fill the application room at DCF in Sarasota to apply for food stamps and then interview over the phone.
The local non-profit, Second Chance Last Opportunity, says they assist about 10 new applicants a week mostly between the ages of 25-30.
"I have seen many individuals that are working, not having enough money to take care of food and clothing,” says April Glasco, CEO of Second Chance Last Opportunity.
Even college graduates are applying for food stamps because of the lack of jobs.
"They're barely making t themselves with a degree, and they have to go apply for food stamps. It's not enough,” says Glasco.
Tyanna says she had to quit college to work more and watch her daughters because she can not afford daycare.
"I think that they should really just open up more jobs and better job opportunities for us so that we can be more independent,” says Brown.
Working-age recipients make up the highest percentage nationally and here on the Suncoast, but over the past 5 years, the highest increase of food stamp recipients on the Suncoast are people between the ages of 60-69 with a 68.3% increase. They make up 5.6% of recipients in Sarasota and Manatee county.