Newark mayor starts living on food stamps

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker. (Reuters / Jason Reed)
Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is officially involved in what might be the biggest challenge of his political career: managing a city of a quarter-million people for the next week without his morning mug of coffee.

Skipping his start-of-the-day cup of Joe might cause some serious headaches for Mayor Booker, but it’s likely not the biggest challenge he’ll have in the coming month. The leader of most populated city in the state of New Jersey has started his so-called food stamp challenge, and says a cup of coffee in the morning simply isn’t in the budget.

In order to raise awareness of what he says is a crucial example of government assistance that can’t go away, Mr. Booker will go the next week relying on the same budget for food as the average American recipient of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps.

On Monday, Booker was caught shopping at a local grocery store where he purchased $29.78 worth of food to last him through the next week, roughly the equivalent to the amount of assistance provided to the average recipient of SNAP.

Following his trip to the store, Booker tweeted a photo of his receipt after finishing his shopping spree, showing off rice, beans, corn, apples and broccoli he’ll be left to fix-up for the following week.

"This will not be a gimmick or a stunt," Mayor Booker told reporters.

Speaking to Elizabeth Reynoso, Newark's Food Policy Director, Mayor Booker says he hopes to accomplish at least a few goals by publically detailing his next week relying on SNAP.

"One is starting to cut through a lot of the ignorance and prejudice, frankly, about people who use supplemental nutrition programs," the mayor tells Reynoso in an interview broadcast on his own Waywire social media site. According to Booker, he wants to "Get people to have a higher level of consciousness thus a higher level of empathy but more to understand our common investment in programs like this and their importance."

“We have much work to do at the local level to address a legacy of structural inequities in the American food system,” Booker writes on the website LinkedIn. “As more and more working people and families – many holding down more than one job – face greater and greater challenges to juggle housing, medical, and transportation costs, meeting nutritional needs becomes a serious problem and a social justice issue.”

"I read your receipt, and I think you are going to be hungry," one follower of the @CoryBooker Twitter account tweeted to the Mayor on Monday.

"U may be right," Mayor Booker responded.