(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Chickpeas and lettuce. No coffee. That’s what Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker had for breakfast on his second day living on the food budget of an average American receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
From Dec. 4 to Dec. 12, Booker has agreed to eat only what he could buy with just under $30 – about $4 per day – and with fewer than two days completed, Booker’s already faced challenges.
Politico tried to help the mayor out by suggesting low-cost meals, but Booker rejected their meat-laden ideas, tweeting, “Not helping much. I’m a vegetarian.”
On his first day, Booker ran into scheduling troubles and had to go for a long stretch with nothing to eat since he did not have access to any of the groceries he bought Monday.
Booker told constituents about his first day on the SNAP challenge in a fireside-chat-style video posted to WayWire, the social media site he co-founded.
The Newark mayor agreed to document his experience taking the SNAP challenge on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WayWire. Booker, known for his social media savvy, has tweeted photos of his grocery receipt and his breakfast so far this week.
Talking with Elizabeth Reynoso, Newark food policy director, in a video posted to WayWire at the beginning of the challenge, Booker said he’s excited “to help people understand these programs aren’t perfect, and we need to start thinking of policy issues in a bigger standpoint.”
“I’ve heard this ignorance sort of spouted about how people just take this money and are buying bad food – it’s just a poverty program that people are taking advantage of,” Booker said. “That’s not what I see on a daily basis as I shop in my low-income community.”
The idea for the mayor’s challenge bloomed out of a Twitter spat with a woman who said nutritional programs weren’t the government’s responsibility.
Another obstacle Booker will tackle this week is the loss of his usual java jolt.
One tweeter asked Booker where he would buy his coffee this week, to which he replied, “It isn’t in the budget. Day one, no caffeine… ”
In his video log, Booker said it was the first time he could remember that he would go a week with no coffee or caffeinated soda.
Almost a decade ago Johns Hopkins Medicine recognized caffeine withdrawal as a disorder that can cause headaches, tiredness, trouble concentrating and even flulike symptoms – hardly conducive to running a city of 278,000 people.
Michael Strahan of Live! with Kelly & Michael is also taking on the SNAP challenge. He kicked off his week tday tweeting a photo of a breakfast much heartier than Booker’s.
“Largest meal of the day,” Strahan tweeted, “three eggs, black beans, and sweet potato.”
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