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Working, but in need: The new face of food stamps

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jan 28 2014 08:31:56 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2014 03:11:29 PM CST

Meet Bend resident Chelsey Gosnell: she owns her own business, is nearly finished with a bachelor's degree and relies on food stamps to feed her family.

BEND, Ore. -

Five days a week, Chelsey Gosnell of Bend leaves home and goes to work.

She's a business owner who is also nearly done with a bachelor's degree.

A 33-year-old wife, a mother of three -- and also the new face of food stamps.

"My co-workers would have never guessed, never known," Gosnell said Tuesday.  "I have to buy food right now, but I can't pay my water bill."

And tougher times may lie ahead, as Congress looks to cut roughly $8.7 billion to food stamps through the final version of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Gosnell is not alone -- she's  just one of millions still struggling to get by after cashing the paycheck.

"What I'm seeing now is an increase of working families that still can't make their needs met and so they have to be on food stamps," said Ron Parsons, self sufficiency program manager with the Oregon Department of Human Services.

His findings are reflected in a new nationwide study conducted by economists at the University of Kentucky.

The study shows for the first time ever, working age adults make up the majority of food stamp recipients.

In the past, children and the elderly were the main recipients of food stamps.

The study finds an increasing number of workers with college training and adults who have jobs need food stamps to get by.

And it's not just minimum-wage earners.

Gosnell recently left a job paying $15 an to start A Lil' Institute pre-school.

Her previous job in the medical field wasn't paying enough to get her family of five off government assistance.

"It was really frustrating, no control, just never quite enough," Gosnell said.

Gosnell said her husband stays at home with their three children while he finishes his college degree.

Gosnell said she's been relying on food stamps off and on for about two years. She still struggles to make ends meet.

"My family really needs the help," Gosnell said. "I've had to humble myself and go get a food box."

Still, she hopes to soon be back on her feet -- and help others in her shoes.

"I see us succeeding and our business going forward," Gosnell said. "And providing jobs for our community and watching other people becoming successful."

Meanwhile, Parsons says Central Oregon isn't necessarily following the national trend.

He said although about 4 percent fewer people among the general population on the High Desert are using food stamps these days, about 5 percent more seniors and disabled people relied on food stamps in 2013.

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