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.