U.S., Newark - Newark mayor Cory Booker is to live for a week on $1.40 (N217) per meal, honoring food stamp challenge, starting Tuesday. He also challenged a Twitter user to do the same.
$35 (N5,434) for food and drink for an entire week
Booker is quoted as saying he will honor the challenge he made to a Twitter follower earlier this month and try living on the monetary equivalent of food stamps for at least a week.
Booker tweeted Tuesday that he’s “been challenged by thoughtful people 2 go longer. I will & after Thanksgiving start.” "December 4 to 11. Seven days," Booker said later in an interview, adding he will be limited to $1.40 (N217) for each meal.
The average monthly food stamp benefit was $133.26 (N20,690) per person in New Jersey in fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As mayor, Booker makes about 100 times that amount, $13,400 (N2,080,484) a month.
Politicians and community leaders around the country have taken on similar challenges in recent years to highlight the difficulty of relying solely on government aid for nutrition.
Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady lived on food stamps for a week earlier this year, and the mayors of Las Vegas and Phoenix, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and the former governor of Oregon all did so within the past few years.
Under the food stamp challenge, individuals are only allowed to spend $35 (N5,434) for food and drink for an entire week. They cannot accept help from friends or family members, and they can't eat food they already have in their home.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, says a qualifying New Jersey resident would receive an average of $133.26 (N20,690) per month in assistance.
Mayor VS Twitter user
The exchange between the two sides stems from a tweet from Booker, who posted a quote from the Greek historian Plutarch: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
This prompted a response suggesting Booker was advocating a redistribution of wealth. “We pay 4 HUGE back end govt programs: prisons, police, etc. If we invested in Schools, nutrition, etc we’d save $ & create wealth,” the mayor said.
And that’s when a Twitter user, @MWadeNC, chimed in. In an online exchange that started Sunday, @MWadeNC had questioned Booker on whether schools should be responsible for ensuring that their students receive proper nutrition.
“Nutrition is not a responsibility of the government,” tweeted @MWadeNC, who goes by “TwitWit” on the site. She later clarified in a tweet that parents, not the government, have the responsibility to make sure their kids go to school “nutritionally ready.”
That prompted Booker to say that the responsibility is a shared one. “Let you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?” he said.
TwitWit, a self-described “Army veteran, army daughter, army wife” and “Daughter of the American Revolution,” accepted.
She said she will participate in the challenge for at least a week, possibly two. The North Carolina woman said she thinks it would be "great" if high-profile people tried to live on the equivalent of food stamps. "I think everybody should do this," she claims.