BEND, Ore. -

The number of people depending on food stamps for Thanksgiving dinner is not surprising to Gene Evans, communications director at the Oregon Department of Human Services.

While many of us have trouble making room on our plates, others are struggling to provide just a basic meal.

The Economic Policy Institute says 42 million Americans will be on food stamps this Thanksgiving. That's about the size of the population of California and Connecticut combined.  

And the numbers here in Oregon and in Central Oregon are high as well.

Oregon's food stamp rolls have been increasing since the recession began in 2008.

"More and more families are having to depend on state assistance and food stamps in order to feed their families," Evans said Wednesday.

The state of Oregon has added about 300,000 people to SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

More than 800,000 people in Oregon and more than 46,000 people in our three counties are receiving the benefits.

And for a time when people really focus on food, Thanksgiving is especially difficult for those trying to make ends meet.

"When a family is fighting through and working through hunger and unemployment and those kind of issues puts a focus on something that is difficult to deal with," said Evans. "(Especially) on a holiday that is really about turkey and desserts and all the things that all of us take for granted and are thankful for."

Evans said food stamp benefits are a direct result of the states employment situation -- people who are out of work, work part-time or their work hours have been cut back.

It's not a lot of money; an average family receives just $250 per month.

"But it's enough money to keep a family safe, keep a family stable and keep the children fed, or seniors or grandparents fed," Evans said.

Evans pointed out that the department receives letters from children and single parents who say they wouldn't be able to make ends meet without the benefit every month.

"It truly is one of the safety net programs," Evans said. "So yes, people have expressed their thankfulness for that."

Evans told NewsChannel 21 that the use of food stamps will go down as more and more people go back to work.

He explained that it takes a little bit of time for people's incomes to get back into normal routine before they can drop their eligibility for food stamps.

He expects the numbers to continue to stay high into 2013, emphasizing that it's going to take a long time to get back to the pre-recession level.