Newark Mayor starts $27.98 food stamp challenge

Mayor Cory Booker has agreed to eat within the limits of the state's average food stamp allotment, $133.26 per person per month, or $27.98 per week.

 

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker is prepared for a food stamp challenge.

He and one of his Twitter followers each plan to live for a week on the monetary equivalent of food stamps or less.

The mayor's week starts Tuesday. The North Carolina woman's began Sunday.

The mayor prepared for the challenge with a grocery purchase of $27.98.

Booker tweeted a picture of a receipt of the purchases he made Saturday at a Pathmark store in neighboring Irvington. The vegetarian mayor's grocery list included pink and black beans, corn and red delicious apples.

Booker declined requests Monday to be interviewed. He is using social media to provide updates.

Other city officials around the country have taken part in similar challenges, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter this past April.

The average monthly food stamp benefit was $133.26 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 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 Gov. John Hickenlooper and the former governor of Oregon all did so within the past few years.

Most participated in the "Food Stamp Challenge," a program from the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center that gives out tools to help organizations and individuals live on a food stamp budget, typically for a week. It even developed a how-to-guide for members of Congress, which includes testimonials from eight politicians.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali and his family also did the challenge earlier this year. An AmeriCorps member serving as the community service coordinator at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut challenged her campus to try it for a week.

Booker, a prolific Twitter user who has 1.2 million followers, has said he wants the public to participate and on Thursday said he will soon announce a celebrity who will also take part.

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 said.