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. LisaW

    I had 3 nephews (able bodied) come live in our garage apartment. They were all getting 200.00 a month in SNAP benefits. They could all physically work. Trouble is, they couldn't pass a drug test to get a job. SNAP is one of the MOST, if not THE most abused program there is. I have no trouble paying taxes to "help the poor". Trouble is, mostly what we're doing is helping the lazy. Sure there are people that need it. I know of one woman in Canton, Ms that has 15 kids. Of course she can't feed 15 kids. There also needs to be some regulations put into place to stop the irresponsible "poor people" from having kids every year on our dime.

    December 4, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Joe Mama

    Has anybody pointed out the irony in the people who NEED this benefit being expected to work out these detailed budgets and shopping techniques to achieve the $30/week target? Or is that not politically correct so we should pretend it's not true? I'm sure there are exceptions, but honestly if the vast majority of the people were that good with money and planning, they wouldn't be in the situation to begin with. But hey let's take the liberal approach. Ignore the root cause and just treat the symptom.

    December 4, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. NotSoSimple

    Somebody actually made a supply/demand argument denouncing the Minimum Wage (or raising it) almost in the same breath that it was claimed that 'an intelligent person' could easily eat on $4/day. Wow!

    The idea that an increase in wages results in an increase in prices is not an automatic truth. In fact, it's really only true if there is a limited supply or the raise so dramatically affects payrolls that companies lose money. In most markets there is no shortage of supply, only demand. This demand shortage is caused often by low wages. Increase the wages, you increase the demand and if you do so in small but frequent increments you can actually increase market profits (through increased sales). It's time to abandon the pro-wealthy economic ideas that are applied broadly but only true narrowly.

    December 4, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. FactsRBad

    You can eat a fairly well balanced diet on 4.32 per day:

    Breakfast: 3 eggs, toast with butter, 6 oz orange juice – just about $1

    Lunch: 1/4 lb diced chicken, mayo, 1 cup diced celeary, and 2 slices of bread (chicken salad sandwhich) – about $1.35

    Dinner: Vegitarian chili (onions, carrots, beans) over rice – about $1.75 per serving

    You have to put in the effort to cook food from basic ingredients and NOT

    December 4, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. Gerry

    You can also buy Red Bulls and soda with them. I see people use them all the time.

    December 4, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. David

    In response to RizenUpenDon
    If you do not have a college degree go get one. Work at McD's or BK or bag groceries and attend a community college instead of complaining about what you make try WORKING TO IMPROVE IT. I am sick of people who claim they dont give me enough to eat on it is a supplement not your only source, and by the way hte 30 bucks you spend on the internet every month would by a weeks worth of groceries.

    December 4, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. WHAT

    Food stamps is only about 4.50 cents a day?!!? I considered myself average and I spend 5$ a day in food between two people. My grocery budget is 75$ for two weeks, which allows me to get 1 snack item that I enjoy in addition to all the vegetables and butcher meat that I can use to prepare meals hopefully with leftovers.

    I thought most people did this. The fact that anyone would complain in this situation is beyond me! You people are pathetic and stupid if you cant manage your food budget. There is people living off far less then 5$ a day FOR FOOD. If you are that lazy you probably already know you are inferior to most humans so just give up.

    December 4, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. KIm

    I can't count the times I have seen people come to the Walgreens where I work and use their SNAP card to purchase ice cream. $6.00. Then they use cash to purchase cigarettes. There are very few times I see people using SNAP to purchase bread, eggs and milk. Once a woman bought bags and bags of candy, used her SNAP card to pay and told her daughter she could put the candy in the goody bags for her party. I have also seen people come and use the cards to stock up on snack so they can bring them on vacation. I work 2 jobs and I can't afford to purchase these items for my own child. I don't mind helping others if they would take the sugar/snacks out of the equations. Even if they want a sack, buy the cake mix, and actually bake a cake instead of buying it aleady made. It would be alot cheaper .

    December 4, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  9. JayneQP

    I don't think the question is whether or not people can utilize the funds afforded them by the State, it's whether or not they can effectively transition to a place where they no longer need it. There's a challenge for you. See if you can figure out how to keep people from chronically depending on the State. Where are the initiatives here?

    December 4, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  10. Josh

    Supplemental means it is to be added to your food budget. That being said, you can easily live off four dollars a day. You just won't be buying doritos, soda, candy etc. You will be buying bulk rice, beans, lentils, etc..... funnily enough, that is much healthier.

    Besides most people on food stamps go get soda chips and candy from a gas station and spend cash on beer. Well maybe not most, but a very large number. Go inside a gas station sometime and see how people spend that money they are given by tax payers.

    December 4, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. crazycoot

    Family of 6, Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup for dinner, under 7.00...comes out to less than 1.16 per person for a meal. Go to your grocery store, see what's on sale and shop around that. Want potato chips? Bake your own. Healthier for you and a 10lb. sack for 1.29 (sale at our store this week) will make alot of crispy salty chips and or provide a filling side.

    December 4, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Libacryte

    JayneQP – the "initiative" is self-worth & drive, the "initiative" is NOT having to live off of taxpayer assistance, the "initiative" to better yourself.

    If someone doesn't have the heart or the will to get off of taxpayer assistance, they don't have the initiative. I know when I was poor, just BEING poor was ENOUGH initiative for me to say "man, this sucks. I need to do something to make sure I'm never like this again!"

    December 4, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Confused

    LisaW – sounds to me like you are as guilty of enabling your nephews as your government is! Yes, the food stamps enable but so does a loving aunt who gives them shelter. Hopefully you were charging them rent! That would be more loving!

    December 4, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. StoptheBS

    Kudos to you Mr. Booker for showing these fools that living on food stamps isn't the luxury they make it out to seem. There are many children out there where the only full meal of the day is school lunch. To the people that mention food banks & charities. Note before some of the social programs were implemented after the Great Depression many people starved or stole for food. Yet there were charities, churches, etc. feeding the poor but it was adequate to ensure the poor didn't starve. The death of a family member, accident, etc. can easily change a family's financial situation. If folks weren't so fixated on stereotyping this wouldn't be an issue. We send billions of dollars of assistance to people starving all around the world but we have a problem feeding the poor right here in this country.

    December 4, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Josh

    Apparently he doesn't have 4 kids because I've seen people sell hundreds of dollars of foodstamps. Helping people is done through charity not at the barrel of a gun. What makes anyone think that we should have any involuntary taxes? People have exploited the entitlement system to demand free housing under HUD, don't worry about your heating bills LIHEAP will cover it, want a car? Here's $750, don't want to work? exchange your kids with a few from your other scumbag friends and you'll both get paid. Don't teach a man to fish, give him a plastic card every month and be sure to reload it every month. Lets see free housing, electricity, heating, food, vehicle, babysitting, and then we'll give you some cash cause everyone knows you're entitled to habitual dependencies such as smoking and alcohol... and to top it all off claim your ADHD or depressed and we'll set you up for life with SSI, so you can sell all your pills at the beginning of the month, and sell your benefits two weeks later when you need to further supplement your habit.

    December 4, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Libacryte

    NONE of these social programs are meant as the "be all, end all" support structures for people to live off of permanently. They were (and ARE) meant to help folks get back on their feet, and were NEVER meant to be a "career." If you're down & out, these programs exist, but ultimately it is up to YOU to get off of these programs.

    Minimum wage jobs are NOT meant to be careers – they are meant to be stepping stones to help you gain work experience. You should NOT be working at McDonalds for more than 2-3 years unless you are planning on going into management for them.

    Our culture has somehow allowed folks to stay on these programs indefinitely as if they are "entitled" to them (hence, the term).

    There is NO excuse NOT to better yourself. For folks who say they don't have the time or can't afford it – I call BULL!! The time you spend on places like Facebook can better be spent typing in "programming tutorials" or "welding tutorials" or ANYTHING ELSE. And the money you spend on things like Starbucks can be better spent on taking community college / adult education classes!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

    December 4, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC


    Food stamps is only about 4.50 cents a day?!!? I considered myself average and I spend 5$ a day in food between two people. My grocery budget is 75$ for two weeks, which allows me to get 1 snack item that I enjoy in addition to all the vegetables and butcher meat that I can use to prepare meals hopefully with leftovers.
    Your remarks reflect your complete and total lack of understanding of urban living. For the most part: there are no butchers; there are no vegetable markets, and the prices are nearly double compared to less urban areas.

    My trip to the store over the weekend say ground beef at $4.29/lb, a quality loaf of wheat bread cost $3.79, a gallon of milk says for a state controlled price of $3.79/gallon. A head of iceberg lettuce costs $2.49. Bell peppers sell for $2.49 to $4.99 per pound. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were priced at $4.99/lb.

    I find so many of the remarks and comments about how "easy" it is to live off of just a few dollars per week a good measure of just how out of touch that right wing media has led its' devotees and followers.

    December 4, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Nameaaa

    It can be done! I have gottin by for nearly two years. Thankful they are there. I havent been able to get work and have no other income it gets old but can be done. One week aint nothin what a joke. and it probly is the most takin advantage program there is people who do honestly need them cant get them and people who dont do.

    December 4, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. chaz

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program! Is this program suppose to pay for all of your nutritional needs or supplement your needs. Get two jobs why don't you!

    December 4, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Steve

    It is rare that I see anyone buying anything resembling healthy eating (no matter the form of purchase) at a grocery store. I always think I am strange when I roll up with actual fruits, vegetables, milk, bread and eggs.

    December 4, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. steve

    One week!? Try one-month at a minimum!

    December 4, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. M.E.

    People are forgetting that it's the SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. It's meant to help with your food budget, not be it entirely. $4.50 per day is certainly enough to catapult someone from corn flakes and ramen territory into properly nutritious food involving fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein. Even in the cornflakes and ramen section, it's pretty easy to buy bags of dried beans, rice, and other nutritious and low cost foods. You certainly don't need to be rich to eat properly, you just need to pay attention to prices, ignore name brands, and know what is healthy vs. what is not.

    We certainly shouldn't be allowing SNAP to be used on candy, pop, and other junk foods. After all, a bottle of Pepsi and a Twix costs the same as a 1lb bag of beans or lentils or fresh carrots at my local urban grocery store. You want junk, use your own dime, not mine.

    December 4, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. Lord Toronaga

    Why do poor people have more children than their "richer" counter parts ? Why does everyone have to supplement their lives and lifestyles ? I would love to have more children but I can't afford it since I actually have to work. Where is the fairness ?

    December 4, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Our family of 9 lives off of $100 a week on groceries. No candy, soda or processed foods. We take $200 a paycheck out in cash and that is our limit. If I have left overs, GREAT! We make everything from scratch and use coupons where we can. No government assistance. There is no need for it. People should be very limited on what they can and can not buy with SNAP and should be required to take nutritional classes in order to receive it. There should be a limit to what can and will be received on the SNAP program and how long someone can be on it. I work hard for my money and feel that I work, just to pay for others who don't "FEEL" like working and use government handouts.

    December 4, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. Justin

    To Eric

    "I have long argued that the government should not subsidize mortgages." I agree anyone with a any sense about them would realize that if government subsidized mortgages, it would just drive the prices up.

    Just like how Finicial Aid for college (loans) are driving up the cost of tuition and leaving kids with 40k/y jobs and 80k in debt.

    December 4, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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