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Midnight Madness

Seth Doane is a CBS News correspondent based in New York.
"I'm not eating that much," Maranatha Mays told me, because "my kids have to eat before I do."

That's a choice that more and more Americans who depend on food stamps have to make as the costs of the basics go up – while their benefits stay the same. Mays, who depends on food stamps, hasn't been able to shop for groceries for about two weeks.

Food stamps don't stretch as far as they used to as the cost of groceries go up. By the end of the month, some shoppers at One Stop Foods on Chicago's south side told us, they are getting hungry.

I asked shopper Michael Jordan, a home health aide, how long his food stamps lasted his family. "Out of the month … about three weeks," Jordan said. Read my complete report here.

Food stamps are only meant to supplement family food budgets, but the working poor are feeling pinched from all sides and their cash is going elsewhere.

Nearly 28 million Americans receive food stamps – and the average household that receives food stamps earns $673 per month, according to the USDA's 2006 figures.

One Stop Foods' owner, Dennis Kladis, found that he was doing more business in the first few hours of the month than in entire days at the end of the month because the food stamps for many of his customers are electronically deposited into their accounts just after midnight on the first of each month.

So, Kladis started opening his store once a month at midnight to cater to folks who've just received their food-stamp money.

On the night we visited, July 1st, the aisles were packed well after midnight as shoppers took advantage of sales, shopped for the upcoming holiday, and took advantage of finally having more money in their food stamp accounts, which is called "Link" in Illinois.

"The minute their link card is activated – they come," Kladis told me, "…because they're struggling to get through the month."

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