MARIETTA - Those receiving food assistance in Washington County and throughout the state of Ohio will see their monthly food stamp amount cut $25 on average beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
Just last week, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was reportedly cutting monthly assistance by an average of $50.
That's because every year the state of Ohio uses a "methodology" to determine monthly food assistance rates for the coming year, said Tom Ballengee, director of the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services.
Part of this methodology includes a standard utility allowance. The standard utility allowance includes the costs of heating fuel, electricity, cooling costs, water, sewer, trash collection and telephone service, according to the website codes.ohio.gov.
With a reduction in natural gas utility bills thanks to last winter's milder temps, the calculations for 2013 food assistance amounts dropped by about $50 monthly.
"The state (of Ohio) realized this was going to be such a severe reduction," Ballengee said.
By figuring the costs of additional heating sources, the state got federal approval to reduce Ohio food assistance by about $25 per month, Ballengee said.
The average family in Washington County receives $205 per month in food assistance, according to Ballengee.
With the 2013 reduction in benefits, county residents receiving food stamps will get a total of $1.2 million less next year, he added.
Phyllis Gregory, 80, of Marietta, currently receives $16 per month in food assistance. She has already turned to Marietta's Gospel Mission Food Pantry six or seven times.
"(The food pantry) does real good. I'm happy," Gregory said, adding she does not know what her 2013 food stamps benefits will be.
"I just have to go on what they (state of Ohio) give me," she said.
Sharyn Baldrick, 64, of Marietta - who also receives $16 in food stamps per month - had made her second trip to the food pantry on Wednesday.
"I don't have much money left after I pay my bills," she said. "... If I have any money, I spend it on food."
According to Baldrick, a drop in her monthly food assistance in 2013 "will really hurt me."
At Gospel Mission Food Pantry, director Candy Waite sees that hurt firsthand. About a month ago, a Williamstown man who had been laid off after working his job for 17 years came to the food pantry.
"Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think he would have to come into a food pantry. But the food stamps he gets are just not enough to make ends meet," Waite said.
Then, there's the Lowell family who came last week when the woman's $200 in monthly food assistance ran out.
"She had tried to cut back on everything... but (food assistance) just does not last her," said Waite.
Even with $25 less in food stamps than the $50 originally predicted, Community Food Pantry of Marietta will see an increase in people seeking food assistance, said director Bill Farnsworth.
"That $25 is a lot of money to people who don't have very much to begin with," Farnsworth said.
Both food pantries reported an increase in the amount they spend to purchase food for stocking their shelves.
"We are spending $600 to $700 per week on food, in addition to donations," Waite said.
"A year ago, we were probably spending $400 a week," she added.
To make a money donation to Gospel Mission Food Pantry, mail a check to P.O. Box 6, Marietta OH 45750.
Food can be donated to the food pantry on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4:30-8 p.m. and from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.