Food Stamp Delays Leave Mother Of Four's Cupboards Bare

By: Jason Aubry Email
By: Jason Aubry Email

What will Jo-E Petros and her four daughters eat for dinner tonight? Will they share a single frozen dinner? Will it be ramen noodles again? There are days when Petros herself doesn't even know the answer to that question. Now, those days are happening more often.

Petros relies on food stamps to fill her cupboards. She works 60 hours a week at minimum wage to pay the rent and utility bills, so when her food stamps didn't come through on the third of the month, the family was left in dire shape. "One of my daughters loves pomegranates, and to go out and buy a pomegranate for five bucks right now, I can't afford to do. And to actually look at my children and tell them I'm sorry, I don't know what we are going to eat tonight, is something that really hurts my heart," says Petros.

After speaking with the Department of Social Services, Petros found out she would have to wait 10 days just to see if her stamps were coming. "She shrugged her shoulders and said, I'm really sorry but there's not a lot we can do. Three thousand people re-certified, we don't have the manpower, computer system is crashing twice, three times this month already. You're just going to have to wait," says Petros.

When those 10 days were up, she got the bad news. Her stamps were not coming this month.

Living day to day has taken its toll on Petros and her daughters. Jo-E says she doesn't mind going without food, so that her kids can eat; but it distresses her when her oldest does the same. "She's making sacrifices for her younger sisters, and for a 12-year-old to make [those] type of sacrifices, so that her younger sisters can eat, is something that a 12-year-old shouldn't have to do," says Petros.

This has left Petros feeling inadequate as a mother. "To see my 12-year-old sacrifice for her younger sisters is really like, where did I fail, where did I go wrong, and why am I being punished," says Petros.

The fact of the matter is, Petros is not being punished. She's just one more case in a backlogged system. According to the Pueblo County Department of Social Services, they are under-staffed, under-funded, and operating with a computer system that is glitchy at best. Of the three, the lack of manpower is what is slowing things down the most. "Manpower is the greatest need in processing more applications for food stamps, medicaid and any other benefit people are eligible for," says Jose Mondragon, the director of the department.

Mondragon is sympathetic to Petros' plight, and the thousands of others seeking benefits. In December, dozens of volunteers came together to help erase the backlog in order to ensure everyone had food in time for Christmas. The reality, however, is that Christmas miracles can't happen every month.

Until the county lifts their hiring freeze, and the state finds money to pump into the system, things aren't likely to change for the better. "An already underfunded system coupled with the increased case loads is really contributing to what we're seeing today," says Mondragon.

While the Department of Social Services says it is doing all they can with the limited resources they've been given, it does nothing for the Petros girls empty bellies. However, for every family with a story like Jo-E's there is a family who did get their benefits this month.

So without food stamps, Jo-E started to look for alternatives. She tried food banks, but found that she needed to be on their list before the first of the month. Then she tried some churches, "the churches were like, we're really sorry but we're out of food," says Petros.

Petros has been getting assistance since her first daughter was born 12 years ago. She had been living in assisted housing until recently, when she wanted to finally get out on her own and make something of her life. Now, Jo-E will have to decide to pay her utility bills or use that money to buy food this month. "For a 6-year-old not to eat, really does hurt, it really does make me feel like I'm not succeeding as a mother," says Petros.

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  • by anonymous on Feb 13, 2011 at 09:57 AM
    Right on Lisa! neighbor of jd, don`t go to jd for help or invite them to your home or he/she will broadcast it nationwide!
  • by JD Location: Pueblo, CO on Feb 8, 2011 at 11:32 AM
    Lisa, you are correct, I do not know everyone's situation. I do know this persons exact situation because they are my next door neighbors and regularly swing by to ask for money or food. I am fully aware she received several thousand dollars on her tax return just a few weeks ago and spent most of it on her computer because she asked me to come by to look at it. She is a single mom with no vehicle. I am sure that money could have been spent more effectively, she has two baby girls under six that depend on her. And I believe she should sell that to feed her children.
  • by Lisa Location: Pueblo CO on Feb 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM
    JD.. that is exactly my situation. But ya know, everyone has different situations. My kids ARE being fed, it shouldn't matter if I bought a computer with gift money over a year ago. and paying for internet isn't as expensive as the cell phone plans that most FS receivers have.. they aren't necessary.. and lines are much cheaper. I have a home phone, internet and cable, yes.. it does not mean I'm not having a hard time financially. Luckily, I have a great support system behind me. Most people don't so I am very grateful. Just letting you know that you do not know everyone's situation. To assume that because someone has a new computer and access to FB, they should be okay financially is just dumb.
  • by JD Location: Pueblo, CO on Feb 8, 2011 at 05:28 AM
    I know someone Currently that is on FS and complaining. But she sure as hell had money to have internet and a shiny brand new computer to update her facebook, letting everyone know that her precious FS were delayed. arrrrggghh! Sell your computer if your kids are really that hungry.
  • by sharron garver Location: albuquerque nm on Jan 25, 2011 at 06:26 PM
    sis i love you and you are a really good mom. keep ur head up and keep the faith. god is good. i love and miss you all.
  • by Valerie Location: Pueblo on Jan 24, 2011 at 09:39 PM
    Actually for 2010 minimum wage was 7.24 an hour times 60 hours a week is 434.40 times 4 weeks is 1737.60. According to the website for food stamp eligibility a family of five must make less than 2794.00 even if her boyfriend works 20 hours a week it would only be 579.20 however that would make it a family of 6 increasing the eligibility to 3200. Not everyone out there just wants to get over on the system. Jo-e wanted people to know about glitch in the system and all she gets is ridiculed and disrespected. smh...what is happening to society?
  • by kat Location: pueblo on Jan 24, 2011 at 11:35 AM
    Does kktv even check their sources? Two jobs at 60 hours a week even paying minimum wage is nearly 1800 a month ...this girl would not qualify for food stamps! i think she exaggerated her employment out of fear of stigma. Its embarrassing being on any type of you really think most people want that humiliation? let alone go on a news cast and admit they cant feed their kids? give this woman a break the true fault in this report is kktv in my eyes they look like a bunch of non credible fools they really should check facts before reporting them.
  • by To no one &Valerie Location: colo springs on Jan 23, 2011 at 07:14 AM
    Amen I how I help?
  • by Valerie Location: Pueblo on Jan 23, 2011 at 02:01 AM
    Wow some of you people are crazy! Regardless of how you feel about the mother there are still hungry babies in that house. It is not our place to judge leave that to the higher power. Have some compassion people if not for her than for her kids.
  • by no one Location: pueblo on Jan 22, 2011 at 09:57 PM
    ya know i feel bad for all of you who do not know jo-e it just so happens that i do and shes a great person and a good mother who are all of you to judge her because she cant get food for her kids and who are you to judge because she has 4 i know people who have more then that and don't have jobs and don't care one bit if we as taxpayers pay for them. at least shes trying think about the ones who aren't. jo-e don't listen to what these idiots say i still love ya!
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