Maria Chavez spent her Monday morning trying to find her family's dinner at the local food pantry, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.
"It's very sad," said Chavez. "I cry sometimes because I don't want to come here to get food."
She's now unemployed, but a year-and-a-half ago she was cleaning houses and providing daycare. Her husband was in construction and they had no problem feeding and clothing their kids.
"I was in the middle, I felt great," said Chavez. "Cause I said, 'oh my God, I have money. I can pay my bills. I can buy my food.'"
But thanks to the recession and slow recovery, the Chavezes and a growing number of American families are now slipping into poverty.
Record Gains for U.S. Poverty as Elections Loom
In census figures due out this week, the poverty rate from 13.2 percent in 2008 to almost 15 percent in 2009. That means one in seven Americans is now officially poor.
Cities with the biggest gains in poverty include Fort Myers, Fla.; Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Modesto, Calif. All were hit hard by job loss and plummeting home values.
With the unemployment rate lingering at 9.6 percent, experts say it could be hard for the newly poor to climb back to the middle class.
"It will be very difficult because the jobs they once had that paid middle income wages are likely to disappear," said Michael Stoll, economist at the University of Southern California. "It's going to take a long, hard road for those jobs to come back."
Which leaves Maria wondering how long her reversal of fortune will last.