“Waiting for Midnight” has nothing to do with Cinderella. Instead, NBC’s Rock Center recently drew attention to a different kind of “mad dash.” Hungry families across America are waiting for midnight at the first of the month when funds under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) become available.
With our country’s current economic woes, more people are finding it difficult to put enough food on the table. In the last two years, the number of American families using SNAP has dramatically increased to nearly 46 million. That’s 15% of the population waiting for their SNAP allowance at the first of the month when they can get to local grocers and stock up once again. In fact, retailers like Wal-Mart have noticed this growing consumer trend as well, even putting on more staff to handle the increased sales.
“Waiting for Midnight” profiles two such families who describe the struggle to balance a tight budget and make their food assistance funds go as far as possible. They say relying on SNAP is “humbling,” yet absolutely necessary in order to give their family a chance. “This is to stabilize our family and to help give us a platform to launch ourselves into being able to [provide] for ourselves,” explained James Dougherty, father of five who recently lost his job in banking and is desperately trying not to lose his home.
These families, as well as the other millions of people living at or below the poverty line, maintain hope that their situation will improve. They keep trying, making those difficult day-to-day decisions, and waiting for the federal assistance program to credit their account so they can feed their families for at least one more month. In the meantime, Congress must protect SNAP funding and ensure that families like James Dougherty’s can remain stable and become self-sufficient.