Record number of Utahns using food stamps

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The recession is taking its toll on many Utah families, and it's showing up in the numbers. Food stamp use in Utah is at record levels and is climbing each month.

At Hildegard's Food Pantry, a church-based charity in Salt Lake, people form long lines, waiting to receive food. In recent months, the lines are getting longer.

Approximately 223,000 people in Utah use food stamps.

Many who come also receive food stamps -- distributed via a swipe card -- from the national nutrition assistance program.

"Things are really tough right now. I don't get a large food stamp allotment," South Salt Lake resident Linda Cossins told KSL News.

Cossins is unemployed. She lost her job after suffering an array of health problems three years ago.

Food stamps feed 1 in 8 Americans and 1 in 4 children across the country.

"Sometimes it just all caves in, and you look in the cupboards and you don't know what you're going to prepare and you don't know how you're going to meet the bills," Cossins said. "And if you let it, it will consume you. It will take you over."

The number of Utahns receiving food stamps is skyrocketing. What's more, Utah has seen the third fastest growth of people signing up for the program of any state.

The number of families needing assistance doubled in the past year in Utah and is nearing 100,000 families, or roughly 223,000 people.

**Utah Food Stamp Caseload**
Oct 200862,413 families
Oct 200992,583 families
**48.3% increase**

"It is unprecedented. We hope that we can start seeing that going down, but we don't anticipate that any time soon," said Curt Stewart, spokesman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. "A lot of it is the current economic conditions, and every month we're seeing more and more households become unemployed. And we think more of the unemployed are turning to the food stamp program to help fill budget gaps," said Gina Corina, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger.

Cossins said, "What I'm doing with my friends -- I have a lot of friends who lost their job over the summer. You know what? We bring cans of food together and make a meal and share it."

She says that, and assistance from the community, help a lot.


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John Daley


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