December 4th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
Share this on:

Hoping to break any stigmas of government assistance, Newark Mayor Cory Booker of New Jersey will live on food stamps this week–a challenge that first began as a Twitter conversation.

The Democratic mayor will operate on a food stamp budget of about $30 a week ($4.32 per day), roughly the same amount provided to people in New Jersey who take part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Read the full story, "Cory Booker spending week on food stamps," on CNN's Political Ticker.

Could you live on $30 a week?
The food stamp challenge: eating on $30 a week
Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America
Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects

Posted by:
Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • News • SNAP • Think • Video

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. HawTSauc3

    I am tempted to take this to an extreme and do $30 a month because i know it is possible. People mistake wants for necessities. Rice is cheap and does not expire. Ramen noodles give you 1 meal for 30 days for a mere $6. sams club offers 6lbs of chicken breast for only $11. Canned veggies are around 50cents a can. Dried peas are even cheaper. and if you have any intelligence you will realize that store brands charge a mere $1.25-$1.50 a loaf of bread. anyone with a kwik trip gasstation can find 3 smaller sized loaves for $1.50. the key is most of your food cannot be quickly perishable. and you have to utilize a freezer when it comes to meats and bread. otherwise its easy. For heavens sake you can make a 15-20 serving dish of lasagna for about $12. Don't get me wrong i can see where people complain about $30 because your meals can be repetitious and you dont necessarily get the best of quality on everything but it is easily doable. the biggest problem is people and their desires for name brands. its amazing that people would rather get kraft mac n cheese when the 40 cent off brand tastes the same and is about 1/3rd the price.

    December 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  2. Patsy Givens

    Mayor Booker, Try coming to Alabama and living on $30.00 A MONTH in food stamps ! ( which I don't draw since I receive too much ) I draw a total of $ 638.00 dollars a month. That is disability and widows benefits combined. I am a 63 year old am I supposed to live on that? And...oh yes I worked all these years too! Not asking for a handout , just what I as an American should be allowed to receive!...

    December 8, 2012 at 3:04 am |
  3. southboca

    $4 a day per person is not a big food allowance - but it can be done where I live (Sarasota, FL). Our city's cost of living for food is 103 - slightly higher than the national average.

    Here's one possible shop list. We use Wal-mart price-matching on a couple of items: Gallon of milk $3, large container of old-fashioned oatmeal $2, dozen eggs $2, whole chicken $8, 5-10 lbs of white rice (not instant) $4, 7 smaller sized bananas $2, small bag of dried lentils $2, 5 boxes of frozen veggies $5. This adds up to $28. ($4 x 7 days). You still have $2.24 for unexpected price increases, or extras like garlic, canned tomato sauce, sugar, etc.
    1 Bananas, oatmeal prepared w/ 1 cup milk for breakfast
    Lentils, 1/2 boiled egg, rice, 1/3 box of frozen veggies for lunch. 1 cup of milk
    Chicken is for dinner. It is cooked all at once to save on electric either in the oven or in a crock pot. Dinner options include: 1. Fried rice (chicken, rice, egg frozen veggies) 2. Shredded chicken and rice w/veggies 3. Chicken w/ a third can of tomato sauce over rice with frozen veggies. 3. Egg drop soup. Use crock pot to turn chicken bones into soup. Remove bones. Bring 1 bowl of broth to boil on stove. Drop in an egg or two, add leftover veggies and rice. 4. Chicken w/third can of tomato sauce plus 1/3 cup of milk over rice and veggies. Repeat your faves.

    Important stuff:
    1 gallon of milk equals 16 cups (not glasses) of milk. 2 cups a day and you have extra at week's end.
    5lb bag of rice contains 11.34 cups of uncooked rice. To have enough for the week, you must eat a little less than one cup (uncooked) a day. If the price is low enough to cover 10lbs, there's no worry.

    To save on electric, the chicken should all be cooked at once (oven or crockpot). Divide into 7 portions.
    Cook one week's worth of lentils at once (store as 7 servings so you do not run out.)
    Rice is better if you cook it daily, but in a pinch, it can be frozen in single serving sizes for easy reheat/portioning. Leftover soup broth should be frozen. We use silicon muffin tins, but plastic ice cube trays work too.
    Basic model crockpots are super cheap at garage sales and thrift stores. If you can hold out until a sale, $10-20 buys a decent model at Walmart, esp around black friday and Xmas.

    As other readers have noted, if you budget carefully and buy in bulk when items go on sale, over time you can build up a stockpile of staples and then begin to build in more variety.

    December 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  4. R. Courtney

    I wanted to make a comment about the Mayor in Newark food stamp challenge, I work in a food market and what I see everyday from mostly people who live in Camden N.J. South Jersey, Camden County, the mayor is eating like I think it should be like (not very good) BUT what I see is not like that,I see they eat very good, such as crab legs, the best in meats, birthday cakes with more then one photos on a cake, which means cost a lot more money and some do multiple kits on there cakes cost ranging from 30.00-80.00 very costly and you mention the st to them and they say it doesn't matter how much, funny when I raised my 2 children alone I work two jobs and can Not afford a cake like they have no problem paying for, it's amazing what I see them buy, and I can't afford to stuff like that and I'm working 2 jobs one full time and one part time, not right. Please come check out what I see everyday.

    December 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. edofchattanoogatn

    ALL THESE REPLIES, THAT SAY YOU CAN MAKE IT ON $33.00 a WEEK, are obviously from the ignorant republiCON party !!!!! I tell you the truth, a republiCON will say anything, do anything, tell any LIE and sink to any LOW to get their way and save their riches. Their way, of course, is the WAY OF THE WEALTHY. They only want two types of USA citizens; THE VERY RICH and THE VERY POOR !!! The VERY POOR, of course will be used like SLAVES for the VERY RICH !!!!!

    I can tell you now from past experience, at today's highly inflated food costs IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LIVE on $33.00 a week for food !!! Here are some price examples from my trip to WalMart yesterday in Chattanooga, TN : Milk $4.69 a gallon, Bread $2.69 a loaf, Cereal $4.00 + a box including oatmeal, Veggies $3.00 frozen small pkgs and the prices go up from there and every month ALL food item prices go up with no increase in FOOD STAMPS. A whole chicken (raw) is $5.99 at WalMart, but you can buy a chicken already cooked in the deli for the same price !!! However, the FOOD STAMP rules do not allow cooked foods to be purchased with FOOD STAMPS !!!! How much do you think it would cost to heat an oven long enough to cook that same chicken ????? Also what about the hot water costs to clean up the mess it would make to cook the chicken ansd serve it ????? Our Tennessee FOOD STAMP BASE FOR SOMEONE WITH NO INCOME has been $200.00 a month since the year 1999 with NO INCREASES FOR COST OF LIVING !!!!! I just got a reduction in my FOOD STAMPS from $60.00 a month down to $16.00 (a $44.00 LOSS) for an increase in my SSDI of $20.00 !!!! I now receive $850.00 ($830.00 last month) a month from SSDI and that is my ONLY MONETARY income. Along with this I now receive $16.00 a month in FOOD STAMPS. So, my electric bill is never under $300.00 a month and sometimes it is over $400.00 (for all practical purposes we will say $350.00 for electric). Then my Auto Insurance is $112.00 a month, my Water/Sewage bill is $90.00 a month, my Natural Gas bill is always $30.00 or more, Phone bill is $40.00 a month and Taxes on the home my parents left me are $170.00 a month !!!!! Then there are cleaning products, laundry soap, bar soap, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap and garbage bags; which I spend about $50.00 on each month. Then there is gasoline and oil cost along with general home and auto upkeep that runs around $45.00 a month. This is so I can keep my home repaired and go to the grocery store, to general life appointments and to doctor appointments (that I have many of) !!!!! This leaves $3.00 in cash and $16.00 in food stamps left to buy food with. By the way, in Chattanooga, TN there is a 10% sales tax on food and drugs, so when I use the $3.00 cash for food, there will be a $0.30 cent charge for TAX on that food !!!!!!! I reality I have $18.70 A MONTH TO BUY FOOD WITH !!!!! Needless to say, I have to go BEG at churches and food banks all over town to have enough food to last all month. Some places will only help you ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS !!!! So, PLEASE DO NOT INSULT MY INTELLIGENCE BY SAYING THAT I CAN SURVIVE ON FOOD STAMPS, EVEN AT $33.00 A WEEK. YOU ARE A BLATANT LIAR IF YOU SAY I CAN !!!!!! Ed of Chattanooga, Tennessee

    December 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Truth™@Ed

      Two requests:

      1. See you doctor about re-evaluating your meds.
      2. Please do not politicize a food blog.

      December 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        I can empathize with the situation, but I wonder how much his internet/data plan is per month.

        December 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          And it's seriously time to look into the draftiness of the home.

          December 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Debbie Jennings

      Umm...EdofChatanooga– I think it is time for you to move.
      I also shop at Walmart and live about 50 outside of Nashville. For a loaf of bread (Healthy Choice) I pay 2.19; for oatmeal- $2.50 for a large container- for frozen veggies anywhere from .99– 1.98 (generic) I can get 10-12 chicken thighs for $4.88 and a large package of boneless chicken breasts of 7 for $9.00. I butterfly them to make 14. You need another store.
      and sounds like you also need a life.

      December 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • VladT

      Very rich or very poor? I highly doubt that, but gee....

      Where do you fall?

      December 5, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • shawn l

      You need to learn how to shop.
      FIrst off, why would you buy cereal? It's overpriced and a black hole of nutrients. Buy bulk oatmeal, or even cream of wheat. Make your own bread, it's cheaper. Can make 4-6 loaves for the same price of one bought at the store. Buy vegetables frozen when they are on sale or when you have a coupon, or buy fresh in season when cheap. A whole raw chicken is larger than one they roast. 3-5 pound bird vs a very small roaster. Those chickens they sell are usually half the size as the raw ones. Make soup out of the carcass to stretch it further. One chicken can give you a dozen meals.

      If you are paying 1200 dollars a year in car insurance you must have a terrible driving record. Seems like you need to make better choices with your money.

      I agree that the amount isn't enough to survive on. I think it's stupid that we don't even give people who are on disability or disabled even close to a survival income, however, you have to make due with what you have.

      December 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • southboca

      Sorry you are having such a hard time meeting your expenses. That can be very stressful..
      A good way to get rid of some of that stress is to cut expenses.

      In your position, I'd start with my electric bill. TVA reports $144.26 is the average monthly bill for Chatanooga customers. Since yours is double the average, that seems like a logical place to start.

      Most likely you can cut your bill by using less energy or to shop around for a cheaper energy plan. The people at Chattanooga Human Services might be able to give you some ideas. (They also offer short-term energy assistance and help with winterizing homes) The director Social Services / Emergency Services can be reached at (423) 757-5541. The web page is Additionally EPB (a local power company) lists money-saving energy ideas on its website: They might not all work for you - but every bit helps.

      Another idea might be to increase your income. Based on your electric bill, it seems like you might have a larger sized house. Renting out a room or two might go a long way towards making ends meet. When my husband and I have done this, we've usually worked through a church pastor to find nice people that also have the means to pay. :)

      Best of luck!

      December 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • HawTSauc3

      Really, what are you buying. Milk, you can push as a necessity. Cereal, not needed, bread is only above 1.25 if you buy some special kind. Learn to buy the generics, they wont kill you. its called bargain shopping and minimalists. You can live on $30 a month if you want people just choose not to because its not enjoyable. Rice 5lbs for $4. 6lbs chicken breast $11. Water FREE. Ramen Noodles 20cents a pack ($6 for 30 days at 1 meal a day). hot dogs are even affordable if you get the cheap brands. people say they cant do it because they dont want to cook and they want fancy stuff. LUCKY CHARMS ARE NOT A NECESSITY. You can live on $30 a week easy per person. you can live on $30 a month if you want but its a push. and for the record I'm a democrat. so get your republican stereotypes out of here!

      December 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  6. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Should take the food pantry challenge, too, and see how that moldy bread and expired hot dogs taste. Most food stamp users have to supplement the program with the food pantry.

    December 4, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  7. LynnAnn

    I don't use food stamps and I'm able to prepare healthy nutritious home cooked meals for my children.

    December 4, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  8. food mom

    This is silly. "Food stamp" benefits (now known as EBT cards – electronic benefit transfers) are distributed monthly, not weekly. One may "do the math" and divide a monthly benefit into four weeks, but this is not at all how one should use this program.
    I've been doing this challenge now for 9 months. I've saved every grocery receipt to back up my own project. One can eat very well, and healthily, if one plans.
    I do have an advantage – I can cook. I do not have to eat meat every day. I can nourish myself very well with healthy foods. I shop with the weekly sales. Most coupons do not apply for me, as they are for pre-fab foods ("heat & serve" – no, America, this is not cooking).
    I spent the first month's benefits on stocking my kitchen. I bought the basics – flour, sugar, salt, butter (yes, real butter), oils, cheese (real cheese, not the imitation kind), etc. After two months of benefits, a rhythm developed. The pantry is stocked, now I must only buy the fresh foods. Did I mention seasonal?
    I'd like to know the last time that Mr. Booker pushed a shopping cart. He is, after all, a mayor, and may have a personal chef. I doubt highly that he's cooked recently. No, barbequeing does not count, unless it's an every day occurance.
    Does the mayor of Newark not own a coffee machine? If not, perhaps he will put this on his holiday wish list. A pound of (good) coffee will cost approximately $15, and will yield, say, 45 cups. A pound of tea will cost, on average, $30, and will yield approximately 240 cups.
    Do your math.

    December 4, 2012 at 11:22 am |
| Part of