Newark Mayor to Participate in SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge

by Katy on December 3, 2012 · 15 comments

Cory Booker, the current mayor of Newark, New Jersey is about to embark on a week of feeding himself for $4 per day, which is approximately the average amount a SNAP/Food Stamp recipient receives. And let me tell ya’, food in Northern New Jersey is going to be a lot more expensive than here in sunny Portland, Oregon.

Non-Consumer Advocate readers are aware that I’ve run the same challenge in 2010, 2011 and 2012. My first two years were month-long commitments, although this year was just the single week. What I learned is that a single week of focus on eating with a $4 budget is very doable, but an entire month is a huge drag. The constant burden of not spending too much on the food budget wears you down and is in no way an enjoyable challenge.

Which is how it should be.

If Food Stamp Challenges were easy, then they would be pointless. To try to prepare and eat a healthy diet under such tight restrictions is far from effortless. And for people whose daily lives involve these budgetary restrictions, there’s no finish line.

I’m curious to see how well Mayor Booker does, as he’s probably used to eating on the go without thought of cost. And more interestingly, I am looking forward to the community response. These challenges can bring out a very unattractive and judgmental side of people.

I know I’ll be following the news. Will you?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda in Mass December 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

I will definately follow along. I do not have trouble sticking to the food challenge budget. I do miss my iced coffee at a local coffee place but I can easily make it at home for a fraction of the cost. Massachusetts food prices are high but we have so many discount type supermarkets and in my area we have a great fruit/veggie market.

I just fed 32 people for lunch at a local organization for less than $30. We had calzones, whole wheat french bread pizza and a huge salad. All the food was brought at local supermarket and my favorite fruit market. It can be done and can be done healthy but it takes planning and cooking from scratch.


Katy December 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I won’t be officially following along, but maybe I’ll track my family’s food spending for the week. Our cupboards are bare at the moment, so it’s perfect timing.



Meredith December 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I don’t doubt this exercise will have a big impact on mayor Booker, and it may even be lasting. Walking in others’ shoes is certainly a virtuous undertaking.

What impact does this kind of exercise have on a larger scale, where decisions about public assistance are made? How could it be made to do so?


Linda in Indiana December 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Wanda Urbanska who previously did the show on Simple Living Network had a saying that nothing was too small to make a difference. Each of us can’t change the whole world but we can impact our circle of influence. Mayor Booker, I am sure, has a much larger audience than the majority of us. We can hope, that little by little, we will make a difference in our own ways.


Katy December 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

“Nothing was too small to make a difference?”

That’s wonderful, thanks for sharing!



tna December 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

A large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will be beyond accessability but he can go a little crazy on bananas and carrots!


Lou Rodriguez December 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Definitely! Can you imagine doing it over a year or more?


Lilypad December 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

” And for people whose daily lives involve these budgetary restrictions, there’s no finish line.” Well said. How exhausting and demoralizing that must be. I wish we could make all members of Congress try it for a month—and give up their free health care, too!


Paige December 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I think it’s AWESOME that a public official is interested in seeing how some of his constituents(spell?) live and make due with a smaller amount than what he’s used to. I wish some of the people in higher offices would try it too…might change alot of ways things are done with our government. Hey…I can dream can’t I?!?


Diedra B December 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm

yes you can dream and your dream is refreshing


Lisa Brooks December 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I am currently on a self-imposed food challenge due to: #1- $89 only available in the budge for food for the month (reason–Christmas gifts and we don’t use credit) and #2. It looks like we will move by the end of the year and we don’t want to have tons of food to move. We are eating from the pantry and freezer. I spend $30 this weekend just to fill in needed ingredients for the planned menu for the next two weeks. The menu won’t be exciting and it will be a little repetitious but we will survive.


Ashley S December 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I LOVE this! It seems like politicians and wealthy people are so out-of-touch with what reality is like for most of people in this country, especially those struggling and barely making it. The richest woman in the world (Australian Gina Rinehart) said in an interviews that if people didn’t want to be poor, they should smoke and drink less and work more. I do not know how someone can be so devoid of empathy. I applaud this politician, and think that it will lead to greater change. Just that he is willing to try it says a lot about him, and I hope that this can be a truly eye-opening experience.


Sharon December 4, 2012 at 9:51 am

Big giant kudos to Cory Booker for doing this, especially this time of year. There is a ton of fresh fruits and veg grown in Southern Jersey in the summer, so getting a somewhat balanced diet then might be feasible. But in winter – no way. Should be an eye opening experience, and he will no doubt act on what he learns.


Emily December 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

So do I have this right? $4/day would be $28/week. That sounds harsh, but I did do $20/week in college 15 years ago. (Ate a lot of potatoes and spaghetti.) Can he carry over from day to day? If so, that would help a lot. What about other family members? There are 6 people in our family, so that would make 28×6=$168/week for our family (right?). I budget $100/week for us currently at the grocery store (Costco gets its own money!!). So, in 4 weeks (approximately a month), that would be $672/mo. That’s plenty! Well, I am in Utah, so surely it’s cheaper here.

Maybe he’s doing it to show it’s not that bad. I have a sister currently on assistance and I must say, she eats better than we do– sort of. She buys a lot more name brands and doesn’t have to price compare because she’s restricted to those brands. I bet if she were paying out of pocket, she’d be paying as much as we are for food, and she has 2 fewer people in her family. Pretty interesting.


Kim Fudge December 6, 2012 at 7:38 am

Booker is an awesome guy. He currently lives in a housing project instead of a high rise. He rents another unit in his building and routinely invites locals who need temporary emergency housing. He has an incredible work ethic and is a very upstanding guy. If any mayor can do this, Cory can!!


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