'I was a social worker who actually helped people in my situation before'

'I was a social worker who actually helped people in my situation before'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Maria Kurtenbach and her duaghter Leyna have been coming to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Eugene for the past three years.

"Because I'm on a very limited fixed income, this is like our grocery store," said Kurtenbach. "Every month we do depend on coming here once a month."

The single-mother recieves $16 in SNAP benefits per month, and relies on her Social Security to get by. "I'm very low on the food stamps, so my money doesn't go far. We depend on it for our daily food, and we're grateful that Eugene has this for us."

But life wasn't always like this for her. Prior to moving to Eugene, Kurtenbach was married in Colorado and worked as a social worker. She and her then-husband adopted Leyna from China in 2007 when Leyna was just 1 year old.

"When I adopted Leyna, I was married. Her father and I had been married for seven years. We lived in Colorado," she said. "I wanted her to have a two-parent family. We were both working and that's how I envisioned providing for her."

There are over 82,000 people in Lane County who are in the SNAP program. The Department of Human Services says they've seen an increase of around 8 to 10,000 households that now access food stamps that didn't before 2008.

Kurtenbach says this is not the life she imagined for her daughter, but she does the best she can to provide for Leyna. "I do the best I can to give her the kind of life that she deserves, so I'm humble enough to take advantage to use the different resources in our community," she said.

As a social worker, Kurtenbach helped others in need of assistance. Now, she is on the recieving end, too.

"I was a social worker who actually helped people in my situation before. I helped families. I used to do the referrals and take my clients to places...but circumstances changed and I have to make the best of what I have," she said.

She hopes her health will improve in the future and be able to go back to work one day. "I'm very grateful. It's a generosity from our community."