Nearly one in four Oklahoma families with children younger than 18 were on some type of public assistance in 2008, according to newly released census estimates.
Public assistance includes food stamps and supplemental Social Security income. Food stamp use is at an all-time high in the state. The use of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program increased to almost 492,000 people in June 2009. The state Department of Human Services said that is up nearly 18.6 percent compared with the same time last year. "Food stamps are one of the leading indicators of economic distress,” said David Blatt, director of policy for the antipoverty Oklahoma Policy Institute. About 11 percent of the state’s households received some type of food stamp assistance last year, up from 10 percent in 2007 and 2.4 percent higher than the national average in 2008. The estimates come from the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey, which surveyed geographic areas with a population of more than 65,000. "As their income dwindles and other expenses rise, it’s the food budget that shows need,” Blatt said. The percentage of Oklahoma households with children younger than 18 that received public assistance was almost 24 percent in 2008, according to survey estimates. The national rate is 19.4 percent. Anne Roberts, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy, said one thing the numbers can’t tell is that even though many families receive this assistance, they often live in communities with few choices for buying healthy and wholesome foods.