Today marks the end of Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker’s food stamp challenge. Two weeks ago, after challenging a twitter follower to an experiment to expose the reality of millions of Americans living on food stamps who still go hungry, Booker documented his week-long experiment in a series of blog, video and twitter postings that has kept both the media and active social networking communities a buzz.

Booker began his week with a food budget of just $33 – the equivalent of assistance many individuals using assistance receive for food. A trip to the grocery store proved to be a challenge. To live on less than $4 per day over the course of seven days required creativity, a strategic shopping list and no handouts from friends, family or outside dinners or business meetings. The majority of his grocery budget went towards the purchase of sweet potatoes, cauliflower, bags of salad, cans of beans and olive oil.

“The second day on the #SNAPChallenge, I ate salad for breakfast, a can of peas and corn mixed together for lunch, and cauliflower, broccoli and a sweet potato for dinner. And today it hit me – the first stages of caffeine withdrawal. Not being able to stop and drop a few dollars for a Venti coffee or Diet Mountain Dew is really raising my consciousness about the food choices I often take for granted,” Booker wrote on LinkedIn.

By the end of the week Booker faced the reality of running out of food. His resolve? To mix together the salsa and mayonnaise remaining in his refrigerator as a last resort.

While many may criticize Booker’s food stamp challenge as being politically motivated (he’s already hinted at a run for governor of New Jersey), the Mayor insists that the challenge is highlighting the need to prevent threatening cuts (about $16 billion dollars) to federal food stamp programs that help to feed millions of Americans.

“I congratulate Mayor Booker on taking on the challenge. But as a senior and recipient of SNAP Benefits, the article makes a good point that a one-week experiment is far different that living a one-month cycle on food stamps,” wrote commenter Cathy Stead in response to an article on MSNBC. “The beginning of the month is completely different than the end of the month when many run out of benefits and begin to skip meals and go hungry.”

The hope for greater access to healthier foods, more government aid and better resources for families in poverty remains a challenge for many Americans. Booker states that his work to combat this epidemic is not over and that his food stamp challenge is just the beginning.

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12 Comments

  1. Stuntin Like My Daddy

    All we learned was that he’s a stunt queen. In the highest order stuntiness

  2. Stunt or not, it does highlight the issue to some people who may have never given the topic any thought because of their blessed lifestyle. $33 a week? I spent close to $40 a few days ago on ingredients for a dish that lasted two days and on expensive bath/body products I didn’t need. Count your blessings!

  3. Thank you for your report Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker. I acknowledge you for taking this timely challenge. I have heard in the news about your living in lack initiatives. We’re in the same conversation here at Midwest Communication Network Group ( MCNG), a not for profit organization. Our access is” Your Health-Wealth Care Management Plan”. What’s the possibility of us joining forces in eradicating poor living conditions and slum lifestyle? Together as a team we create a healthier living conditions now and for our next well deserved generation, a worldwide phenomenon. Our current platform is 50 Nurses: 50 States Transforming Disparity Now de Nicole Claude, RN founder/ pres MCNG Haitian-American Nurses Association of Ill, The Nicole Claude Show- Your Voice is On Power 102.1 FM

  4. Stunt or not, it served to illustrate how ridiculous it is that there are people trying to get by and survive with only $33 a week provided for food. And even that might get cut? Let him do as many stunts as he wants to call attention to this. It’s heartless.

  5. Umm as a single person, I could live on $33/ week. Now I couldn’t buy organic as usual and it may not be the most exciting meals but I could buy the following and still have enough for left over for the next week:
    - 1-3 bags of dry beans (say.2.50 each)
    - 1-2 bags of brown rice (say 2.50 each)
    - Oatmeal ($4)
    - 3-5 bags of frozen veggies (about 1.50 each)
    - Flour (2.00)
    - yeast (3.00)
    - Apples (4.00)

    With all of that, I can have the veggies I need, protein from the beans, fiber from the oatmeal and apples, plus I can make several loafs of fresh bread. While I couldn’t feed a family on that, you can most def feed one adult if you ware planning and buying smartly.

    • @LemonNLime: Yeah, I agree. I used to survive with about 40 dollars per week when I was single. Stuff like a very simple vegetable lasagna would last full week for dinner, rice, beans, and veggies for lunch, Cream of Wheat for breakfast, a bunch of bananas, and a bag of small apples or bag of oranges. And I’d buy a lot of store brands to save 1-2 dollars per item. And since I wasn’t yet a vegetarian, I cut meat down to 0-3 times per week. With 30-something dollars, you can’t eat all the goodies, organic, and gourmet, but you can survive. It just takes a LOT more planning and cutting corners.

      My family of four survives off of 75-80 dollars per week.

    • @LemonNLime: @LemonNLime: Some people live in very expensive areas of the country when it comes to food prices. I couldn’t do this challenge as a single person in my current city/neighborhood. The same ingredients would cost me another $10. A lot of that from the apples and veggies. In poorer neighborhoods, which is the neighborhood I moved to to save money, I am finding that food actually costs more. I go to my old neighborhood to grocery shop. That said, most people on food stamps work and are trying to use the money to supplement the whole family’s grocery bill. I think the most ridiculous part of the food stamp argument is the idea that people are like”Welp, I got food stamps, I can retire now.” Not on this little bit of money.

    • I agree that it is doable, but you need knowledge about nutrition to eat this way. Public schools do not teach this information (it’s not on THE TEST) and many of the people who receive assistance, I imagine (because I don’t have actual data) are not taught this (or else why are they eating so ably). It would be a huge improvement if along with the food stamps that recipients were given info and advice about how to make nutritious food choices and to establish a diet similar to what you’ve designed. But as far as I can tell, that doesn’t happen and 99 cent burgers become more appealing than “whole foods” because of convenience and perceived cost. TEACH A MAN TO FISH!!!!!

  6. $33 a week is a measly amount of money for groceries, but I agree with LemonNLime.

    My weekly budget for groceries is about $40 and I shop @ Whole Foods! Go figure. I eat to live, not live to eat and buy things like frozen broccoli, frozen fruit for smoothies, kale, ground turkey, pasta, bag of frozen salmon (not from Whole Foods $13 — lasts about 3 weeks), grits, oatmeal, apples, black beans, lemons, and occasional sweet tea from Walmart.

    Cooking allows you to get creative and stretch your food with veggies, beans, gravy, etc. Packaged foods are very limiting and not filling. I don’t believe in spending a lot of money on food.

  7. I agree with @lemonnlime, a single person could live off of $33 a week. The issue that we are not taking into account are the recipients of food stamp. 1) if your on food stamps, you probably arent living in a single person household. 2) the residences of recipients are in low-income, impoverished neighborhood. 3) Food sources are going to be unhealthy, which will therefore lead to some bad health condition, which will therefore lead to disability with a rare chance of getting of welfare/food stamps.

    What we need to look at is a solution to get people off of food stamps and for those that can’t; a better educational program so they can link healthy food and healthy lifestyles together to make the appropriate decision on how to spend their money.

  8. Food stamps cannot support convenience lifestyle! Healthy staples in bulk like dried beans and brown rice will provide significant nutrition on the cheap! Meat is expensive and not necessary…a very little can go a long way to flavor foods if you like the flavor. Frozen veggies and in season veggies are best value and nutrition. Yes, in some neighborhoods the groceries cost more…a $3 bus ride to save $ for better produce is worth it..just bring a wheel cart!! Growing your own herbs and a few easier veggies can help lower food costs as well. Food stamps were never meant as a long term solution…it isn’t supposed to be nice, easy, cushy…, it is supposed to keep you from starving until you get to a better situation, acting as a suppliment to your overall food budget. (Where are the extreme couponers! They could turn $33 into hundred!)

    I would much rather see food stamps turned to food baskets…why are tax payers paying for a retailer’s markup, when the gov could negotiate much better rates with food suppliers!? A monthly dry goods basket and frozen veggies…much more economical and better assurance of nutrition getting to the people needing help.

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