Snapshots Of Struggle In The Food Line

seth doane tennessee food pantry line CBS

Snapshots of suffering in a small, southern town reveal a daily struggle for survival.

"Are there days that you …" CBS News correspondent Seth Doane began asking.

"That we don't eat?" Liz Thomas said while standing in line at a food pantry. "Yeah."

"Why is it getting more difficult?" Doane asked.

"Gas prices. Milk is just as expensive as gas these days - it's just really hard," food recipient Stephanie Smith said, tearing up. "I'm sorry."

Most of these people never imagined they'd wind up waiting in a food line.

"I think the best thing that people can do is stand back and pray - pray for better times," recipient Cynthia Graybill said.

Pray - and pitch in. People come from all over the county - the ones who don't need help volunteer to help those who do.

One volunteer, Wanda Stinson, said: "When they hug you and say 'I have one can of corn in my cabinet for the rest of the month,' you go to bed that night saying, 'oh thank you, lord, I was able to help that family.'"

The mobile pantry, and the others they've had in Dover, Tenn., was made possible by Second Harvest, which loaded up about 10,000 lbs. of food 90 miles away in Nashville.

Learn more about Second Harvest's effort to feed the hungry at its Web site.
Read more about this story and the series at Couric & Co.
For the organizer, getting the word out proves to be its own challenge.

"There's probably been, like, 40 people who've had their phones disconnected since the last time," said organizer Linda Hagen. "I think they're giving up their phones for food and gas."

One local factory moved to Mexico - another just canceled a shift. And the number of families signing up for food has almost doubled since last October.

In line, Doane met a woman named Georgia Bumpus. She started cleaning houses when she couldn't find an office job, but now she's become a luxury.

She said: "People have said, 'well, can we afford to have a housekeeper? when we might, you know, need that money for gas or for groceries ourselves.'"

Stephanie Smith had to leave her minimum-wage job because her salary didn't cover the cost of her commute and child care.

"This is hard to have your kids watch their parents go through this," Smith said.

The lucky ones are on one side of the table, giving out the food. But they know there's not much separating them from the other side.

"The scary thing is, it could be you," said Kelli Garrett of Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee. "We find so much more that folks who said I never thought that this would be me, I never thought I'd need food are needing help."

"Did you ever think you'd be standing in a line like this?" Doane asked.

"No," said Bumpus. "And it's humbling. It's humbling."

Humbling or not, there won't be a line to stand in much longer.

The state money that funded the program runs out at the end of the month. And that hasn't been renewed.
  • Seth Doane

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