December 4th, 2012
10:11 AM ET
5 years ago

Cory Booker spending week on food stamps

(CNN) - Hoping to break any stigmas of government assistance, Newark Mayor Cory Booker of New Jersey will live on food stamps this week–a challenge that first began as a Twitter conversation.

The Democratic mayor will operate on a food stamp budget of about $30 a week ($4.32 per day), roughly the same amount provided to people in New Jersey who take part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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Booker, who's considered a potential gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey's 2013 race, vowed to go on the budget after getting into a debate last month with a Twitter user, who argued "nutrition is not the responsibility of the government."

"In my own quest to better understand the outcomes of SNAP assistance, I suggested to this specific Twitter user that we both live on a SNAP equivalent food budget for a week and document our experience," Booker wrote in a blog post Monday.

To promote the experiment, Booker, who's known for his frequent Twitter posts, will use the hashtag "#SNAPChallenge."

More than 47 million Americans used SNAP benefits in August, according to the latest monthly data available. In New Jersey, 787,460 participated that month.

Those using the benefits are allowed to purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and dairy products. They are not permitted to buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption.

The Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, also states that soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream count as food items and are therefore eligible items. The list also includes seafood, steak, and bakery cakes.

Filed under: 2013 • Cory Booker • New Jersey
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. PK

    It's called cost of living and depending on where you live, you pay different prices on commodities. Food costing 4 dollars in one state can easily cost 6 dollars or more in another state or city. You learn this very quickly when you move from Ohio to Texas to Colorado because your job took you there and when you go to school in California. I've watched food prices increase 30% over the last year and the people at the grocery tell me they're going up another 30% in the next two months.

    December 4, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. J.Crobuzon

    This is a good way to shut up the Glen Becks and Rush Limbaughs who claim millions are living high on food stamps. Seriously, you'd starve with nothing except government assistance. They give the poor as much as we can afford, which isn't jack. "so he won't lose face when he finds out it's not as easy as he pretends it to be" No, he's doing this to prove you'd starve on public assistance. There's no place to cut more from these programs.

    December 4, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. The REAL Truth...

    There's absolutely NO WAY one can lead/live a healthy life on $4 per day.
    Not anywhere in the US that I've ever been. $20 maybe, but not $4.
    $120 per week, yes. $480 a month yes. But one person on $4 per day is totally unrealistic – like much of the GOP's fiscal ideology.

    December 4, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. kelly in los angeles

    i eat on less than four dollars a day-a lot of times i survive off of dollar burgers and fifty cent burritos from the grocery store and i am not on food stamps-i have to buy dishwashing liquid and other necessities also. when i was a vegetarian i was eating one dollar bean burritos from fast food joints everyday

    December 4, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  5. JIm

    SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Supplemental and Assistance being the key words there. It's not intended to feed the person, just assist and supplement the few dollars you spend of your own

    December 4, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Matt

    Everyone is missing the point of the program. It's Supplemental Nutrition ASSISTANCE Program (SNAP) not Supplemental Nutrition DEPENDENCY Program. The whole point of the $4.32 a day is to be added to ASSIST you not provide your ONLY means of food. This is saying you should fully depend on $4.32 a day and not have any other means of income to live on. People need to think about this logically and realize what it is actually intended for. It's for someone working a minimum wage job that will have this to ASSIST them to get food, not to just live off of it. Everyone wants a free handout but wants to do nothing in return. I believe JFK touched on this one briefly.....

    December 4, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  7. sixthfore

    If someone without extreme disabilities cannot afford to SUPPLEMENT a $4.50/day food contribution for over several months, what is that person doing for their fellow countrymen and country that they should _expect_ them for more contributions? Receiving help is one thing, _expecting_ more is another.

    December 4, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. J.Crobuzon

    You'd starve on food stamps, which is what he's demonstrating. Guest42, you just mention the meat; how about sides, cooking oil, seasonings? Eric, stolen money? You don't want to pay US taxes, leave the US. North Korea would love to have you.

    December 4, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Anne

    Typical show from a Democrat. What does he want to prove?

    December 4, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  10. Karen

    Why doesn't he pretend to get a job so he doesn't pretend to need SNAP? Work not welfare.

    December 4, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  11. conniesz

    Guest482 – but did you do that shopping in Jersey? Different parts of the country have different costs of living and Jersey is really hi. And Ham is NOT a healthy food by any stretch – think nitrates. And at less than a dollar a pound, that chicken you bought is suspect of all sorts of things – like being at its expiration date, containing added water, from chickens fed all sorts of chemistry to make them grow faster, things like that. Do you really want to claim that this stuff is healthy?

    Really healthy food involves a lot of fresh vegies and very little of processed carbs – and that, my friend, costs real money no matter where you live – but it costs more in places like Jersey.

    December 4, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Data Driven

    Hm. I'll feel free to take the anecdotes here with a grain of salt.

    Meanwhile, rather than publicity stunts, New Jersey voters might be more interested in Booker's plans to 1) fight to get Jersey's fair share of dollars for this program, followed by 2) create incentives to get people off SNAP in his state.

    December 4, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. Tretyal

    So the "Supplemental" Nutrition Assistance Program isn't really enough to live off of? I guess that's they they used the word supplemental in describing it.

    But please, keep complaining about how the FREE food society provides to you just isn't enough to let you get by while doing absolutely nothing of value in return.

    December 4, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Guest482

    J.Crobuzon: I did just mention meat, that was a small portion of what I bought, I also stated I could go on and on. Veggies, tomatoes, lettuce, 2 10lb. bags of potatoes, oranges and bananas for the kids' lunches, 3 lbs fresh green beans which were on sale. got a bottle of Olive Oil for 90 cents, on sale and had a coupon from the sunday paper. Have corn frozen from when it was on sale a few months ago, would you like me to continue?

    December 4, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. KJB

    We have 6 in our house. I buy about $175 to $200 of groceries a week. That comes out to about $30 – $33 per person. And we eat pretty well. You can get frozen veggies for 99 cents a bag (which covers all 6 of us for one meal). I make lunch every day for the kids (turkey sandwiches). We eat out as a family very rarely...maybe some fast food a couple of times a month. Not a big deal to live off of this amount. And you can eat well. I make almost all dinners from scratch. You can do so with simple ingredients and not a lot of cooking skill. BTW, my grocery budget would be less if I didn't have to buy so many snacks for the kids! That is what costs us $$$.

    December 4, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. Janice Duff

    Let's discuss the abuse in the food stamp program....that's what we should be talking about.

    December 4, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  17. DickPerry

    So more then 47 million Americans are treated like children who cannot be allowed to buy whatever they want. That sounds like freedom to me.. LMAO...

    December 4, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  18. lenno

    I usually spend anywhere from $5 to $8 per day on food, and I'm the size and age of an average NFL linebacker. I could spend less if I had to. Plain white rice feeds millions of destitute Asians, and it can feed you, too for under $4/day.

    December 4, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. lenno

    "The REAL Truth" is full or real 100% USDA Prime bullexcrement. $120/wk for food for ONE Person!! Learn how to budget.

    December 4, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. darkbraincomics

    So.... is the twitter user also doing this or did they wimp out? Also, hopefully that Twitter user lives in NJ, where $4.32 a day is going to bring you very little nutrition.

    December 4, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. PhillyGuy

    Sure, $4 a day if you live near a farmer's market, or produce junction. But you are not going to find good quality grocery stores/supermarkets in most urban areas in the city. There are plenty of corner stores in the city with junk food, or lower quality food to purchase. Where as if you go into the suburbs, you can find better quality selection of healthy food; i.e. cost goes up.

    But you are not going to easily be able to get QUALITY milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables, bread, or fish for 4$ a day in urban areas. Not even in some rural areas of the US.

    Do you not think it's a coincidence that the best foods that you can buy from places like Wegmans, or Whole Foods is the most expensive, and you mostly see caucasians shopping there as opposed to minorities? It's not that people of color don't like good food, not as many minorities have the financial option to spend that much on groceries.

    Why should it have to cost soo much for natural/organic food verses no money for lower quality, chemically processed food?

    December 4, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. lenno

    "Guest42, you just mention the meat; how about sides, cooking oil, seasonings?".....LOL and what about Hors d'oeuvres and wax candles for the table? Public assistance should cover that too, right?

    December 4, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. Greg

    To some of the points already mentioned. Food stamps were designed to help suplement your income not be the only means of income. The whole program was designed to help those out during a short time till work or another way of life cam along. Somewhwere in Americas past we lost the will to work for things. What happened to pride? It used to be embarrassing for people to collect food stamps. Now people want free food, free education, free health care, free housing and no desire to work or put back into the pot. This country once encouraged its people to work hard and be anything they wanted to be has turned into a wellfare program. Shameful.

    December 4, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  24. Josh

    $4 a day??? That's PLENTY of money for food. My monthly food bill is rarely over $100...and that includes the occasional bottle of wine. In law school, I rarely spent more than $1.25/day on food. Try living off $4 a day total for nonlodging-related expenses...that $4 has to cover food, gas, clothing, etc..but maybe I took the wrong approach by working summers to pay for my expenses during the school year rather than bumming off the food stamp system. So cry me a river that someone else is footing the bill for your groceries...frankly I couldn't care less because $4/day is plenty.

    December 4, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  25. Joel

    Is this a joke? I got a family of 6 I can feed on $120 a week in groceries. You just have to learn how to cook.

    December 4, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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