For Many, Food Stamps Alone Aren't Enough

OKLAHOMA CITY - For millions of Americans the economic recovery can't get here soon enough. In 2010 a record 40.3 million Americans received food stamps. That's a 20 percent jump from 2009.

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports that even with that help, many are just getting by. By the end of each month the question in Sheri Lopez's kitchen isn't what's for dinner but will there be dinner?

Her daughter says, "At the end we're all just trying to find something in the cabinets. Sometimes you go to bed kind of hungry."

Sheri's husband lost his construction job a year ago.

"It has been downhill," says Sheri. "There've been no ups and downs. It has just been downhill."

This Oklahoma family of five saw no choice but to apply for food stamps. Their $500 benefit lasts two to three weeks but hardly four.

Just before midnight on the last day of every month, Sheri and her husband make a trip to the grocery store to beat the midnight rush.

"We get excited," says Sheri. "Like, 'Oh, we're going to go shopping tonight!'"

On the first of the month food stamp debit cards are automatically refilled with benefit money from the government. On an average night between midnight and 3 a.m., a store could bring in about $3000. On the first of the month that number is 10 times as much with almost everyone using food stamps.

The aisles are stocked with stories of hard times. Alisha Ross has been looking for work for six months.

Seth Doane: "What would you do if you didn't have food stamps?"

Alisha Ross: "I don't know. They're pretty important."

In Oklahoma the number of people relying on food stamps is up, close to 40 percent in two years.

The stamps are only meant to be a supplement but in some cases there's nothing to supplement, so the Oklahoma food bank fills the gap.

"The last two weeks of the month is when our pantries just get slammed," says executive director and CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma Rodney Bivins.

They've increased distribution 74 percent to keep up with the end-of-the month crunch.

"It used to be emergency and now they're asking us to sustain them," says Bivins.

Pantries and food stamps have helped sustain the Lopez family but those days may be coming to an end. Sheri's husband just got a job.

"Yes. Thank god," says Sheri.

And with the new year Sherri's resolution is to get off food stamps for good.
  • Seth Doane

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