Food Stamp Crunch Intensifies

Midnight might not seem like an ideal time to open grocery store doors.

But on the first of the month, it is, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.

In the afternoon, the aisles were almost empty at One-Stop Foods on Chicago's South Side, because most of the patrons there rely on food stamps - and their monthly allotments had run dry.

"They're struggling to get through the month," Dennis Kladis, the store's owner, said. "So the minute they get their money back, they come shopping!"

The benefit money is electrically deposited on a debit card. For many there, it comes just after midnight on the first of each month.

For Maranatha Mays, the moment can't come soon enough.

How long has it been since she last were able to come to the store and buy food?

"Like two weeks ago," Mays said.

She lost her job six months ago, and her family of six gets $369 a month in food stamps.

"It really like, cut me out," she said. "I'm really not eating. Because my kids have to eat before me."

Getting through the month is a stretch.

"Do you notice the cost of food going up?" Doane asked grocery shopper Myeisha Collins.

"Yeah, because you could buy a bulk of cheese for like $10. Now it's almost $13. Milk use to be like $2; now it's almost $5," she said.

The midnight madness is a come-as-you-are event.

Owner Dennis Kladis makes sure there are lots of sale items. And he says he does more volume in the first few hours of the month - than in entire days at the end.

"They're trying to make the same ends meet on the same money - while prices go up … so, it's an indictment on what's been going on," Kladis said.

Food stamps are only designed to supplement food budgets. And now the working poor are relying on them more and more. And they need to spend their cash elsewhere.

Read more about the food-stamp struggle over at Couric & Co. blog.
"Do you worry that a lot of the stuff you're buying isn't the healthiest?" Doane asked Terrelyn Watkins.

"Yea, but I know it's cheap," she said. "I mean, if you don't pay Con Ed - you're gonna get your lights cut out. If you don't pay people gas - your gas is gonna get cut off."

Watkins makes about $25,000 a year as a dental technician. But supporting two kids, one job doesn't do it.

"It's just crazy out there. People are doing what they have to do to make a living," she said.

Michael Jordan and his partner, Renee Bishop, both work in health care. But their salaries aren't feeding their kids - and food stamps don't last.

"Whoever making … these prices go up? They need to make 'em go back down," Jordan said.

They're not shy about asking for help.

"The costs are high! I'm about to ask you for a little ... change!" Jordan said.

But change isn't coming anytime soon. The government won't consider raising food stamp allotments until October.
  • Seth Doane

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