Unemployment, a car wreck and a history of drug abuse were among the struggles cited by Oklahoma City residents on Tuesday as they sought free food from the Skyline Urban Ministry.
Rhonda Cutbirth, 46, is a former school crossing guard and janitor who said she came to the city from Porter in May to look for work.
"Jobs are very hard to get because it's a very small town," she said of Porter.
Cutbirth said she knows what it's like to give rather than to receive. She worked for a pantry in Coweta that distributed food to impoverished people in rural areas who had no cars.
Cutbirth lives with her friend, Debbie Taber, who moved from Porter about a year and a half ago.
Taber, 44, is a mother of six who was in a car accident in April, then lost her job as a security officer the following month.
"I'm on unemployment, and I've searched high and low for a job. I've even gone to McDonald's to get a job and haven't had any luck," she said.
"There are so many people out here who don't realize how many people need help right now," Taber said.
Lou Stevens, 39, said she was married at 15 and moved from Boise City with her husband.
"My problems started when I started doing drugs and went to jail, and it's just gone downhill from then. Just stupid stuff that I've done on my own. Can't blame no one but myself," she said.
Stevens said she sold and used methamphetamines for the better part of 15 years. She's been clean for about a year now, she said.
Stevens said she has a good relationship with her 23-year-old daughter but isn't allowed to see her 10-year-old daughter, who lives with her father, because of the past drug use.
Stevens said she has been living in her van for the past couple of weeks. She works at a Mexican restaurant on the city's south side one day a week, but is looking for a full-time job.
"I don't believe in asking anyone for help because I was raised that if you want something bad enough, you'll work for it and you'll get it. That way you don't owe anybody for anything," Stevens said.
None of the women interviewed receive food stamps, they said.
Allison Ball is site coordinator for the Skyline ministry at 701 NW 8. She said the ministry has less-stringent guidelines for emergency food rations than other pantries, but limits visits to three times a year.
As the recession hit Oklahoma, Ball said, there's been about a 25 percent increase in people seeking food from the pantry. At the beginning of the month they may see 20 families a day, but as the end of the month approaches and funds are stretched thin, that number approaches 50 daily.
On Monday, 49 families received packages of food, Ball said.
"We have people who come because they had a fire and lost everything and people who rode with family members to St. Anthony's and got stuck there. It's not just people who have lost their jobs or are homeless," she said.
"If we can help them out with food, they can put money toward other places where it's needed," Ball said.
The food pantry is open from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. A photo ID is required.