Three weeks ago on Twitter, Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker was challenged by a follower who questioned whether there are actually families who receive food stamps and are still too poor to afford breakfast.
Booker responded to the comment by assuring the user that there are in fact scores of families who are forced to send their children to school hungry. To underscore his point that the government is responsible for making sure that children are ready to learn, the Newark mayor pledged to live off of only food stamps for a week.
For Booker, the Twitter promise was a similar to previous initiatives that he's undertaken. Prior to the Twitter pledge, Booker has run into burning homes to save residents, fixed traffic lights and shoveled snow, and personally called transgender couples to ensure them that Newark would accept them with open arms.
On Tuesday, Booker's one-week food stamp challenge will come to an end. The rules of the program were simple: seven days, $33 in stamps, no hand outs from friends and relatives, and no accepting free food at work or other functions.
After his first trip to the grocery store, Booker realized his task wouldn't be so simple as buying a smaller amount of the food he would normally purchase.
"I am regretting not thinking through some of my food choices for the week. In hindsight, investing more of my SNAP budget in eggs, and perhaps some coffee might have helped me later in the week. I am growing concerned about running out of food before this is over -- especially as I try to resist the urge now to have another sweet potato before I go to bed tonight," Booker wrote on LinkedIn.
During the first day of the challenge, Booker used most of his $33 stipend on several cans of beans, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, bags of salad, and a bottle of olive oil, Yahoo reports. He posted a picture of his grocery run on Instagram.
As the week went on, the mayor grew hungrier and his food supply dwindled. He chose to eat a dinner of peas, black beans, cauliflower, and broccoli in small bites to "allay some…hunger pains." Then, over the weekend, the mayor accidentally burned one of his sweet potatoes. His pantry was depleted.
At the height of his cravings, Booker coincidentally had a meeting in a bakery, which proved to be a Tantalus-like situation for the mayor.
"I have a meeting now, IN A BAKERY. UGH," Booker groused on Twitter. "My bakery prayer: 'Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil," he added later.
He would return to his car after the meeting and scarf down cauliflower and dried beans, while trying to imagine Christmas cookies and cake.
Booker, resolved to complete the challenge, even had waiters remove his plate during a fundraising gala at the tony Cipriani in New York. Undoubtedly he would have preferred the goat cheese salad and steak and potatoes to baby-sized cauliflower bites.
Booker, a self-proclaimed caffeine junkie, felt the pangs of Pepsi and coffee withdrawals as well. He says he's been crankier than usual this week.
Amid his challenge, Booker has faced criticism that his efforts are politically motivated--that he intends to use his food stamp promise to raise publicity for his eventual gubernatorial campaign.
Booker has vehemently denied these claims, telling the public that the purpose of his actions this week is only to draw attention to the importance of SNAP as the government attempts to make dangerous cuts to it.
As Booker's challenge dies down and his hunger rages, he says the week's experience has humbled him and furthered his resolve to fight for food subsidies.
"I'll be honest with you. I take so much for granted, even going to Starbucks and buying a cup of coffee is more than my daily food allowance right now. And so we really need to expose the problems on a national level by denigrating programs that actually empower our economy in the long run," Booker told CBS.