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. youkiddingme

    It's called SNAP for a reason – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It is not intended to be the sole source of the food budget. Also most of the people who qualify for these programs also qualify for reduced or free lunches, etc plus they have access to food banks. This type of effort is a political stunt and I think has a negative effect on the public perception of the plight of the poor.

    December 4, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. DJ Reality

    $4 a day is just enough to get by. Hey that's toast and butter with Kool-Aid for breakfast. Lunch is Top Ramen, small bag of chips , and Kool-Aid. Dinner more Ramen and more Kool-Aid. that's about $4.

    December 4, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. bs1

    An intelligent person can eat quite well on $30 a week, the problem is that many getting such assistance have no concept of budgets or nutrition even if they are not the ones trading food stamps for cash to buy beer, cigarettes, drugs, etc.

    The comments about forcing retailers like Wal-Mart to pay a "living wage" are also absurd and show a total lack of understanding of how the economy works. Minimum wage is a vote buying tool for politicians, nothing more. Any time you raise the minimum wage it simply triggers inflation and in six months everything is back excatly where it started relative to buying power to hours worked ratio. Set the minimum wage at $100/hr and see how quickly the $2.50 carton of milk becomes a $25.00 carton.

    December 4, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. RizenUpenDon

    Booker is a joke. He want the welfare experience? One week won't do it. Try it for a year and without his fancy SUV and house. Ride a bus or walk to work daily, forgo his high end healthcare and operate on $1500 or less a month. Endure being turned down job after job because you don't have a college degree or job experience because no one hires you to begin with. His actions is nothing but a joke and political stunt, and should be called exactly that instead of insulting people who live below the poverty line while trying to rise at least a niche above it. It smacks of Romney's 47%-er insult.

    December 4, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. FenderR

    I believe Cory is nearly a vegetarian (he may eat fish) so this may be slightly easier for him to do since he already knows ways to get protein without much meat. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard not to have to purchase GMO junk at 30 bucks a week...

    December 4, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. sissie

    In my day, we had no assistance for families. Neighbors helped each other, we didn't have all the fast food restaurants. Why do people think we owe it to them. My poor mother took in ironings and did things in addition to working in a cotton mill. WE NEVER GOT ANYTHING>L>>

    December 4, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. JT

    dang, during football season i was spending $30/wk on beer alone (though I wasn't the only one drinking it...)

    I envy you guys but I really hate cooking (maybe it's just the cleaning afterwards). I don't think I've ever left a grocery store having spent <$30 unless I went through the 10 items or less line.

    December 4, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  8. noreligion

    It is posiible to eat healhy on $30/week. I did it at some point in my life. I bought dry beans (99C/lb), rice, green split peas and lentils (79c/lb) little diced meat to flavor, and cooked big pots that lasted about 5 days. Bought all generic/bulk, including pasta and cereal. No brands. Canned spaghetti sauce $1/can (no bottles), eggs, a dozen a for 6 weeks is enough for one person. Carrots and other veggies are much cheaper in bulk than frozen. I bought a pound and peeled, diced and froze them myself.They lasted forever. Potatoes 5lb bags. onions and tomatoes.Half diced medium onion is enough to flavor a large pot of beans. Ripe bananas (some stores sell them at 20c/lb). And a lot of iced tea ( the cheapest drink at pennies per serving) three bags make large jug. no lemon and little sugar.Once a month bought frozen concentrated orange juice, mixed w/water and have OJ for a few days. I rarely ate out. Maybe some weekends to splurge at cheap places or fast food for a change. I was leaner and healthier then. I should remind myself of that experience.

    December 4, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. ME

    Its called supplemental meaning it is to supplement your food budget. It is not meant to fully fund your grocery budget. Growing up poor (poor=1 box of mac n cheese for 4 and ground beef..thats it) we did not go out to eat. We did not buy the cool cereals, we did not have menu selections. We ate what was cooked, when it was cooked. We never asked for assitance or stood in a line. $4day for one. Box of oats $2.49, milk $3.09,, pasta .99, and ground beef $3.29 total = $10.75 in solid food. It appears to me this man will not starve.

    December 4, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. becky

    Americans are incredibly spoiled, and their waist lines are proof. For $2 you buy oatmeal, for another$2 you buy dried red beans and for another $2 you buy a ham bone. $6 later you can easily eat for a week. Is it fun? NO...I wouldn't want to do it, but you won't go hungry! Millions of people around the world eat way less than that/day and continue to live their lives.

    December 4, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Seola

    Lovely, we "get by" on $1.38 per day per member of my family and we make nearly six figures. Of course, nearly a quarter of our income will go towards medical with all it's increased costs. I'd LOVE to have $4 per day per person in my house hold. On food stamps, my family of six would get almost $1000 a MONTH in SNAP, with a decent job worked hard for – we get about $250 a month. Combined with all the "entitlements" I could get, next year (even with a 4yr degree and certs) it would be "cost-effective" for my family to quit all jobs. Between WIC, welfare, "free" medical with Medicaid, housing, etc. my family would get nearly $90k in those benefits for the "needy" – more than my household takes in with all the aforementioned training plus 10 years experience. Why bother?

    December 4, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. yaa

    Yeah well, those who eat 4$ lunches don't work...they can afford to sit back and relax. Booker on the other hand has a job to do....Plus this is a media #horish thing to do

    December 4, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  13. MNfree

    $120 a month for food for one person? It's called, 'Not Eating Out or Buying Junk Food and Eating Based on Coupons.' Heck, use your grocery receipt and save at the pump to boot. There are ways, the main thing is, do people care to save when it's not their money?

    December 4, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Humanity4All

    Nice. Every politcal leader should be put on food stamps. We will find more real leaders who care about this country.

    December 4, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Seola

    A family of 4 with no income gets almost $700 a month. A family of 6 gets nearly $1000. Tell me again about how my family, coming close to six figures gets $250 a month for food and those in SNAP are doing "bad"....

    December 4, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. Seola

    A family of 4 with nothing coming in gets almost $700 a month. A family of 6 gets nearly $1000. Tell me again about how my family, coming close to six figures gets $250 a month for food and those in SNAP are doing "bad"....

    December 4, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. KindaSorta

    It may be intended to supplement a person's need for food, but in many instances it is the only source because in order to qualify you have very liitle income or none. Free lunches are for school kids and if they are allergic to peanuts then that becomes unhelpful.

    December 4, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Barry

    I know there are people in America who are poor, but hell, if you really want know what being poor is really like, move to Jamaica, Haiti or one of those Caribbean countries and live amongs people who really dont have anything. I was born in Jamaica so I know and I saw it every day as a kid. We Americans are spoiled considering we have everything to make us better, some of us choose to be economically deprived by inflicting that deprivation on our selves. As it is said, Americans live by the rivers of waters, but we remain thirsty.

    December 4, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. NameJW

    That's a good idea,and other politician should do the same for 6 month. Then they can experience,holidays,birthdays on food stamps. How they at like somebody getting over.

    December 4, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Eric

    To GOP = Greed Over People,

    I have long argued that the government should not subsidize mortgages. While I want to help people who cannot help themselves or for those who are taking action to help themselves, I feel no compulsion to help those who can help themselves but won't.

    To Barbara,

    You really think that the average person makes minimum wage? Frankly, I don't want people who can only make minimum wage to represent me.

    December 4, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. Lord Toronaga

    AS stated below. It's a supplemental program. Next...why are "poor" people so FAT if they are supposedly hungry. Even junk food is expensive... Every day we hear from the experts that Americans are overweight.

    December 4, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. HipSter

    budgeting food for a WEEK is nothing, anyone can do that. The challenge would be to do it for 6 MONTHS straight, with a family of four.
    He would get tired of the same old lame cheap food all the time. I guess I've just gotten used to ignoring the steaks and fancy yogurts in the refrigerated aisles. You can usually find the same non-perishables at dollar stores for $2-3 less than grocery stores.

    December 4, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. Peace

    All politicians understand how it feels to live on a very tight budget, though they pretend to turn on a blind eye. Life is really unfair. Some have more than they need and others are struggling to put something in the stomach. How sad!

    December 4, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Todd

    It's possible to eat on $30/week. You can do what a lot of poor moms do – make 1 gigantic pot of spaghetti and eat leftovers all week long. Or you can cut most of the meat out of your diet and get your protein from 89-cent sacks of beans. Rice, peas, and lentils are also dirt cheap. Or there's always the college student route of 49-cent Top Ramen packs. It gets much harder if having a lot of meat in your diet is something you're not willing to part with (meat at every meal adds up really fast) or if you're completely unwilling/unable to cook.

    But realistically, I think SNAP's $30 a week is supplemental for most people anyway, not their entire food budget.

    December 4, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    The number of erroneous comments about how easy it is to live off "X" number of dollars per week is astounding. I find the comments regarding eating healthy the most ignorant of all.

    In those inner cities, it is HARD to find fresh fruits and vegetable of decent quality. Most of the remarks do not take this into account, and likewise the transportation costs associated with going to a more distant shopping location. The magnitude of the ignorance is further displayed by how they all consistently ignore the inconvenience of bring several grocery bags of food home on public transportation.

    But, I've come to expect this from the millions of #freedumb fighters out there.

    December 4, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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