LA CROSSE, Wis. - Since the economic collapse in 2008, the number of people in La Crosse County using food stamps has gone up sharply.
In fact, the increase is 65-percent according to La Crosse County Economic Support.
Food stamps help more than 13,000 people in La Crosse County alone, afford food. While the money is helpful, it's not always enough to get by.
"It's just people are in need and so they're coming to apply," said Tom Miller, economic support supervisor for La Crosse County.
Miller helps people in La Crosse County seek benefits like food stamps or food share as it's known in Wisconsin.
In tough economic times he's seen a dramatic increase of people needing help.
"I don't think it's something that you're going to see go away right away," said Miller. "Its going to take a while."
The money people receive for food stamps is supposed to be used as a supplement to their income, but Miller said if people are making little to no income, they end up trying to live off food stamps which isn't easy.
The national average amount of money a person receives a week from food stamps is $31.50.17460196
News 8 went out to see just how far that amount can stretch that at the grocery store.
With some lettuce, celery, carrots, cereal, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, some beef, chicken, milk, orange juice and some bread, all of the food we picked added up to $31.92. We went over by 42 cents, and keep in mind, all of this food has to last for all of the meals for the week.
About a dozen religious leaders in Minnesota also tried to find out by taking part in the food stamp challenge living off the national average for the past week.
"It was incredibly hard," said Rabbi Amy Eilberg, coordinator of the challenge. "It was really an education and just a glimpse of the complexity of the sense of restriction, the sense of stress and fear, and insecurity as well as at times, not having as much food as we would like."
It was an event to raise awareness on hunger and poverty, and while change may not happen overnight, Miller said he's hopeful it will come in time.
"It's a gradual thing," said Miller. "It's not like tomorrow everyone in La Crosse is going to be employed where they can make enough that they don't need it. So, it's like a few jobs here, this employer hires people there, then you'll see the numbers slowly go down."
Qualifying for food stamps is based on income among other factors.
People in Wisconsin who qualify can receive anywhere from $16 to $200 a month.
To learn more about food stamps and the qualifications, head to the county website here.
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