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. martin2176

    if you buy groceries and supplies for $30/week, you can likely eat reasonably well at home
    breakfast: oat meal + milk + banana + coffee = 3$
    lunch: 4 pound chicken legs + seasoning + veggies + pasta + cheese = 12$
    dinner: repeat of lunch = 12$

    total 27$

    7 X 4=28$ =27$=1$ remaining for mints

    December 4, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Justin

    "$30 a week is a Ramen Noodle budget."

    Ramen costs about 30 cents a packet where I live. 2x/day, so that's $4.20 a week if that's ALL you eat.

    My mom was on SNAP and got about $150 a month ($5/day). It was enough for her to buy anything she wanted, then give the card to me, and have me get anything I wanted. I was eating sirloin steaks and fresh veggies at least once a week. With savings and coupons, $150 is a lot of money for food.

    December 4, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. kw

    you can buy unhealthy food with that....not much, but still some to "fill you up" sort of.....but you cant sustain a healthy daily diet on 4 a day.

    December 4, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. Bill

    I've read a lot of comments where people are saying that SNAP is an assistance program and is assist with the money that you are already spending. The problem is can you really say that an extra $4 a day is really assisting you in anything? Also SNAP has virtually replaced the traditional food stamp program and therefore it should be providing more than $4 a day. My family and I have never used any government assistance programs but I can only imagine how difficult it is for a lower income family to purchase healthy products. When we go grocery shopping we spend an average of $250 every other week and we are a middle to upper middle class family and personally I think I am paying too much for groceries so again I can only imagine what a lower income family thinks...

    December 4, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  5. marie

    sometimes their just isnt any money left over to add to your snap benefits. i see alot of families in oklahoma whose u/e benefits have expired their is no money to even pay bills. the sw part of the state has had no rain so no cotton, wheat or peanuts. i hv seen people on u/e benefits of $100 a week denied food stamps citing too high of monthly income and these are people who did work, paid into the system, have no work due to mother nature, and you are going to say they dont deserve good nutrition. if they get sick or health fails they will not be able to get work when it does become available. some social programs are necessary not only for health but for our safety. hungry people do drastic things. the crime rate will increase. people will steal to sell the items to get money for food just like they do for drugs. this is not a good thing.

    December 4, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. KJB

    Just a little more info for those who think $30 wouldn't buy you a whole lot. I shop every week. Here are some prices for you:

    Ground Beef – $1.99/lb. on special
    Skinless, boneless chicken breasts – $2.39/lb.
    Gallon of milk – $2.39
    Carton of eggs – $1.29
    1 lb. of pasta – 99 cents
    Higher-quality bread (on sale) – $2.50 a loaf
    Apples – $1.39/lb.
    10 lb. bag of potatoes – $5
    huge block of cheddar cheese – $7
    Canned refried beans – 99 cents
    Canned green beans – 99 cents
    Package of English muffins – $1.19

    I mean, come on! You can live just fine off of $30 a week. Everything I just listed there is $28.11. For one person, you should be able to make quite a few meals out of what I listed. Plus breakfast and, add in a container of peanut butter, also lunch! Could 1 person really use a 1lb. block of cheese in a week? This is what I use in maybe 2 weeks with 6 people. These are the foods my family is eating. We are healthy and eat a decent diet. No one overweight in our family.

    December 4, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. jodioli

    Though not on assistance, at one point in my life, my kids and I had about $100 a month for food. We ate lots of beans, peanut butter sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, "pizza" made from day old French bread, and eggs. I even did dumpster diving behind grocery stores when desperate. You can't get much fresh food into such a small budget.

    We managed to survive that and we're all doing much better now, but I know most people would be in deep trouble if they had to miss a few paychecks for any reason.

    December 4, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. Not here

    So, will he be buying his own groceries and have to face the humiliation of it, as some do after watching their jobs get shipped over seas? Other wise, it's yet another pony show for political points.

    December 4, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Baa Weet

    must be nice to have a choice to live on that for a day,or not.I live now like i did in school,Mr noodles,and kraft dinner.Its close to 4 a day,but i don't have a choice until i pay my credit cards.

    December 4, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. sdnative

    paleeeze. people on food stamps eat better than the working poor who are just over the limit to get assistance. going hungry to pay sdg&e,rent, water and have gas to get to jobs. many use food stamps for drugs and neglect their kids-

    December 4, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Will

    $4 a day is plenty. The problem is people are buying the wrong things that are packaged at expensive markets. I live in Los Angeles and my grocerty bill for the two of us this past Sunday was $31. Out of that we made 10 lunches and 2 dinners. The lunch that I'll eat today, which is a salad will be around $2 which is fresh vegetables and a protein.
    What pisses me off is that in California you can use your food benefits at KFC and other fast food places. That's what we should be talking about...the waste and fraud.

    December 4, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  12. The real point is (not the lie you've accepted)

    Congratulations media for making the discussion about IF you can SURVIVE on food stamps while the real discussion should be what do people actually do with food stamps.
    I see a lot of people on food stamps buy things I just cant afford. Fillet mignon, giant steaks, giant pork loins and others. When they get their stamps the hold a giant party with friends who bring beer and family that brings smoke. The next day they complain that the government didnt give them enough.
    They send their kids to school to eat free food while they trade their stamps for drugs and alcohol. A food stamp is only worth half its value for sale so the taxpayer gets taken twice.

    Go to a school breakfast line and look at how fat the mothers are. Those kids will grow up believing the goverment supplies all food. When the government supplies your food then they can also take it away. Scary.

    December 4, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. MJSouth

    Then let the city of Newark supplement the funding. No one is stopping them. Grandstander.

    December 4, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. Frogleg

    My sister became disabled 2 years ago at the age of 62 and gets $ 16.00 a month! It's just more than I can stand when I hear someone complain about "entitlements". She had to retire after 10 years of teaching Special Ed. She went back to college in her late 40's to get her degree in order to save for retirement and now she barley survives on $ 640.00 a month plus the $16.00 worth of food stamps. She had just paid her student loans off and then this happen. It's sickening to hear Bone-head and filthy rich buddy's even murmur the thought of cutting medicare and raising the age requirement, then cut social security. These jerks need to be taken down. The middle class need to step up and take this country back from the filthy rich. What they are doing is wrong and they are taking down this country! We outnumber them people. Please remember this and get out there and vote and call your family and friends to do the same. Offer a ride to others if they don't have one. We did it the last two elections and we can do it again in 2 years. Vote the haters out of office! Stop letting them spit on you!

    December 4, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  15. DRTSAT

    This is meant to be a supplement to any income that people may have. If Mayor Booker tries to live on $4.32 a day he's going to be super thin when this is over.

    December 4, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. DC

    Dried beans, rice, cheap pasta. better invest in a crockpot. You won't be buying much meat and fresh fruit and veggies.

    Dry milk (just add water) and plain cereal or oatmeal in the morning. Taking leftovers from dinner or bagging that bologna sandwich and pretzels for lunch. Drinking water at work and free coffee if there is any.

    All generic brands. Won't be able to afford the major brand items.

    December 4, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  17. Reply@J.Crobuzon

    We (Rush Limbaugh supporters) are not just complaining about the amount, we are complaining about the eligibility requirements. Example, college students who are living in dorms are applying and receiving SNAP – along with many other forms of government handouts.

    Now let's do math also. Fed spent $76.7B in SNAP program for 42M people. That amount to $60 per person per day average. Then how come people in NJ received only $4.32 per day? Do you really donate your personal money to a charity that spent 90% of donation for their overhead?

    December 4, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. Anonymous

    30.00 dollars a week that:'s great because in texas for 1 you get 15.00 dollars for month so a week is very good.

    December 4, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. Kate

    If we required Walmart, and other companies making billions a year to pay living wages. The amount of people on food stamp would go down, but we would rather subsidize corporations and demonize the working poor. So we can get cheap junk and give it to our dear friend as a thoughtful gift.

    December 4, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  20. ulli

    Texas gov Rick Perry lives on $150.00-PER MEAL

    December 4, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. demsstupid

    DRAMA at its peak!!! Instead of going on $4 dollor menu, why cant he work on getting jobs for the unemployed? are americans are getting stupid by the day??

    December 4, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Scott

    It should not be easy to be poor and on government assistance.
    SNAP should provide just enough to get by, but not enough that any recipient is comfortable.

    December 4, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. kimlara

    It all depends on where you live!!

    December 4, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. David

    @Martin2176 Where can you buy enough milk, oatmeal, bananas and coffee to last a week for $3.00? Certainly, not in New Jersey!

    December 4, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. capnmike

    You can eat healthy and well on $30 a week, BUT YOU HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO COOK! Crap like Ramen Noodles will only fill your stomach and ruin your health (Incredibly high sodium= high blood pressure..)...Beans, Rice, fresh vegetables, fruit, and VERY little meat, which is bad for you anyway, and absolutely no pre-prepared garbage.

    December 4, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
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