Several weeks back, Newark Mayor Cory “I let people charge their cells in my house” Booker got in a fight with a guy about food stamps on Twitter. And Booker, who is a pretty rad, money-where-your-mouth-is politician, said to the dude, OK, you think people on food stamps are just evil people sponging off the government? Let’s both go on food stamps for a little while and see how fun it is, shall we?
So last Tuesday, Dec. 4, Booker officially began his time on what is officially called SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). Today, a week later, he’s finishing up. Here’s are some of the eye-opening experiences that living on roughly $30 worth of food afforded the 43-year-old Booker, who has been mayor since 2006.
- He suffered caffeine withdrawal because he couldn’t afford coffee.
- He burned a sweet potato and realized that when poor people burn stuff they can’t necessarily just throw it out.
- He had to separate his food into little meals to eat throughout the day because if he didn’t he got hungry.
Of course Booker got shit for doing this. People said food stamps were supposed to be supplemental, that no one was supposed to live off them alone, that they were supposed to go to soup kitchens and stuff. People said he shopped wrong. People pointed out that he’s a Yale-educated Rhodes scholar who was just doing a stunt. Maybe those are reasonable points, but really, what Booker did was just say, hey, I’m going to get a tiny glimmer of what it’s like to be a poor person for a week. How many mayors do that? Answer: Not a lot or maybe none?
Booker is not, however, the only public official to do the SNAP challenge. Jennifer Velez, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services, did the SNAP challenge last year and wrote in her own diary: “… hunger affects everything: energy, patience, mood and sleep.” Seems like a pretty important thing to learn.