One out of nearly five on food stamps

Published 10:09 am Friday, June 22, 2012


BOYKINS—Jawanna Bynum three years ago became part of growing trend in Southampton County.

The 38-year-old single mom from Boykins could not find a job and began receiving food stamps. Today, Bynum is among 22 percent of the county’s 18,570 residents who receive government assistance to feed their families. She is also among 699 residents on welfare, according to the county Social Services Profile Report for 2012.

Michelle Stivers, director for the county Department of Social Services, blames the increasing number of residents on government assistance on the economy. According to the report, 3,972 residents, or one out of every 4.7, got food stamps in 2011; that number jumped 41 percent since 2005 when 2,811 were on food stamps.

The number of residents on welfare was 598 in 2005; that number increased by 17 percent for 2011.

Also in the county, 16.4 percent of residents lived in poverty in 2010. That means a family of four made $23,050 for the year. The number fell from 2008, when 17.5 percent of the county’s residents lived in poverty.

“I think just overall the economy is so bad that we are dealing with people that we never dealt with before,” Stivers said. “Our caseload has increased and we have people coming to us who never had to before. I think we are inline with the whole country.”

Bynum, who falls into that category, is working toward getting off assistance.

She is participating in a work-study program with the Department of Social Services, where she is learning skills to become a receptionist. Bynum also is taking medical billing and coding classes online through Everest University.

After having her 4-year-old son, Bynum didn’t return to her $30,000-a-year job as a corrections officer at the Southampton Correctional Center because she couldn’t find dependable childcare.

When she was ready to return to work, the prison had closed and Bynum couldn’t find a job. She’s applied for more than 100 positions.

Today, her family gets $526 in food stamps and $292 in welfare every month. They live at Brookside Square Apartments rent-free. Rent at the government-subsidized complex is based on income.

“I’ve always worked,” she said. “Even now, it’s still kind of hard to accept the fact that I’m on public assistance.”

Stivers has also seen more residents apply for Medicaid. In 2011, 3,702 residents received the government-funded health insurance.