Some say Mayor Cory Booker is thirsty for attention. Well, come December 4th he will be practically starving himself to bring attention to poverty. Whether you like him as a politician or not, we can all agree that he isn’t afraid to get out of his comfort zone. How many mayors do you know who rescued a neighbor from a raging kitchen fire or invited Hurricane Sandy victims to his home for days on end? How many citizens, for that matter? Now Mayor Booker will live on a food stamp budget for a week, experiencing first-hand what many Newark residents live like who feed their families on the government assistance program.
“This will not be a gimmick or a stunt,” Booker vowed to reporters.
A New Jersey Department of Human Services spokeswoman said Booker will likely qualify for about $34 a week. The department’s commissioner, Jennifer Velez, took the challenge last December.
“I’m hungry,” she blogged on the fourth day of her challenge. “The stomach grumblings help keep me focused on the purpose — to raise awareness about the estimated 2 million NJ residents who are food-insecure and the state or community support available to them.”
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton underwent the same experiment in September, on a budget of $4.16 a day and kept a daily journal on Facebook. Here’s part of his entry from Day 4.
So I’m surviving on an apple and handful of peanuts, and the coffee I took to the office until dinner. I’m tired, and it’s hard to focus. I can’t go buy a sandwich because that would be cheating – even the dollar menu at Taco Bell is cheating. You can’t use SNAP benefits at any restaurants, fast food or otherwise. I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Booker plans to live off the food stamp budget for a week, starting Tuesday, December 4, and he will document the experience on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. He signed on to the project after a back-and-forth conversation with Twitter user @MWadeNC. The mayor is now using the Twitter hashtag #SNAPChallenge to promote the project, after the official name for food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.