Nearing retirement - and surviving on food stamps

Food stamps generic
John Manton, 64, of Philadelphia uses a calculator to pinch pennies.

More than 12 million Americans are still unemployed and a lot of them depend on food stamps. But even with that assistance, CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano tells us many are struggling to get by.

Sixty-four-year-old John Manton can't afford to keep his refrigerator full these days.

"I have my bread and a piece of ham from a canned ham," he said.

He's still looking for work nine months after he was laid off from his job as a courier for a Philadelphia legal service. He's fallen out of the middle class and into poverty, and is barely making ends meet.

At a grocery store, Quijano asked Manton: "How strict are you with your budget?"

"I have to be very frugal, very frugal," he said. "It is the only way that I can survive."

A college graduate, Manton never imagined he would be grateful for the $149 he gets in food stamps every month. He stretches every dollar by using a calculator when he shops and skipping meals.

John Manton, 64, of Philadelphia uses a calculator to pinch pennies. CBS

" You don't eat breakfast?" Quijano asked.

"No, I don't eat breakfast."

"Is that to save money?"


Manton is one of a record 46 million Americans now on food stamps, an increase of 20 million people since the Great Recession in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 41 percent of food stamp recipients live in households where someone does earn a paycheck -- the so-called "working poor." To be eligible for food stamps for a family of four, the maximum income is $29,064. For a single person, it's $14,160.

John Manton receives $780 a month in unemployment benefits which is due to expire in March. Mantonhas outlived the rest of his family. He's terrified if he doesn't find work soon, he'll lose his home.

"I've lived here since I was 12 years old," he said. "I am 64 now. I had hoped to retire when I'm 65. The government kept pushing up the age and now it's 66. These politicians are scaring the daylights out of me and I am sure other seniors. What's going to happen if they decide that I cannot go on Medicare until I am 68? Where is it all going to stop?

Manton said he'd rather earn a paycheck than receive food stamps, but he said it's the only option he has left.

How to help: Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger
  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.