Food Assistance

At the Department of Human Resources office in Sumter County, stacks of food assistance applications that were collected this month are still yet to be filed.

'We're going to find a place for them eventually, but right now we just don't have room and they really don't have the time to be filling,' says Shelia Shumate, who is the Financial Support Supervisor for Sumter County's DHR office.

Within the last eight months Shumate says 140 additional applications for food assistance have been approved. She's says that's more than usual. Of those, she says the bulk were filed last December when almost 23-hundred Sumter County residents received food assistance for that month.

'We have people coming in and telling us that for the first time they are unemployed and need to come in and talk with us. We also have a lot of young people who reside with family and decide to go out on their own. We also have students, who mostly in the fall, come in to see us as soon as they get back in school.'

Since peaking in December, there's been a steady decline in the number of food assistance requests in Sumter County. Shumate says this is likely due to a new program that's being handled within the state's capitol. She says the purpose of the program is to help senior citizens in need get food assistance.

'They are working on a program for the elderly in Montgomery where they don't have to be interviewed. They don't have to come in to the office to see anybody, they can do it from home and they're certified for three years,' says Shumate.

Drought conditions, which are getting worse in the western part of the U.S., are ultimately expected to affect people in West Alabama. This could also lead to another increase in demand for food assistance in Sumter County.

'I'm not sure,' says Shumate. 'It's very possible because like I said, we go up and we go down. It goes with the economy.'

Each month the DHR office in Sumter County spends more than a half million dollars to help buy food for families in need. To qualify, the gross income for a family of four there cannot exceed $2,422 per month.

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