How’s Living On $4.32 A Day? Mayor Cory Booker Finds Out

A few weeks back, we reported on a quick back-and-forth between the Newark chief and a follower on Twitter over governmental responsibility. It resulted in a challenge: for a week or more straight, the two would live on a SNAP budget – SNAP being the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or better known to us as food stamps. This amounts to $4.32 a day, $30 for the whole week.

As a result, the Mayor hopes to raise awareness of food justice. In the face of possible fiscal cliff auto-setbacks, states’ SNAP programs have been left on the chopping board

He started the challenge this past Monday and, sticking to his social media tendencies, has kept us in the loop of everything he’s eating (or, for that matter, not eating).

“For the first time, in a very long time, I am considering every meal and the cost of food I am eating… I cannot remember the last time I started the day without a cup of coffee.” he writes.

The Mayor’s Twitter acts as a forum for how he should spend his $4.32 on a particular day, with users giving advice on how to get the most of his less-than-five dollars:

Also, it looks like people are joining him with the challenge:

You can follow the Mayor’s blog for further updates and pictures from his experience.

Luckily, he’s not in New York, where the stakes are raised due to the nature of everything here to be way, way overpriced. As a result, the broke college student days help you master eking it out on or around $4.32 a day. Here’s to the Budget Life.

For those livinging in the five boroughs, try this painful diet:

1. Breakfast: Bagel with butter: $1 – $1.25
2. Lunch: Bodega or cart coffee to hold you over: $1-$1.25
3. Dinner: Dollar slice(s) pizza: $1 or $2, depending on how much your intestines hurt

Or, you can take up smoking, which cuts out #2. Except one pack costs about three days worth of food. So much for the cheap way out…

We send the Mayor our praise – this is no simple task to complete.


As Thanksgiving Approaches, Study Shows Over 1.4 Million New Yorkers Are Still Food-Deprived

The day before Thanksgiving is a day of travel and settlement. Penn Station and Port Authority are packed with nomadic New Yorkers, leaving by bus or train to visit family and friends for the big day, and cabs are all headed to JFK, LaGuardia or Newark airports to drop off the rambunctious New Yorkers, taking off on a jet plane for the big day.

However, for many of the New Yorkers that remain, the day’s huge feast isn’t as lavish. According to a report put out by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger on Monday, one in six residents of the metropolis do not have sufficient food leading up the biggest food day of the year. And, as we know, Sandy didn’t make the situation much better.
Before the storm hit, 1.4 million residents were food-deprived; that number has risen in past weeks to nearly 1.5 million people. The study also shows that one in four children suffer from this as well as one in ten seniors. However, the organization does make the effort to point out that the volunteer efforts have done extraordinary work to fend off the hunger crisis post-Sandy.
But, needless to say, the problem still remains for millions.

Using Food Bank of NYC data, The Daily News reported that the city’s food stamp enrollment has skyrocketed by 64 percent since the Great Recession began in 2008. As of today, 1.8 million people rely on the program to eat – a main group included in the Coalition’s study. Also, the awareness points its attention to the Bronx, where pantries are running out of food fast with more visitors every day.

Keep in mind that Thanksgiving finds meaning in its name. Make a giving effort; I’m sure 1.4 million New Yorkers will say “Thanks.”

For a full read of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s study, click here. Also, it’s not too late to donate your time; you can find out how here.


Mayor Cory Booker Accepts Twitter Challenge, To Live On Food Stamps For A Week

By this point, we’re desensitized towards larger-than-life headlines of Newark Mayor Cory Booker. This guy is saving people from fires, handing out toilet paper to the distressed during blizzards, mediating on bulletproof vests for bodega owners and, who knows, maybe even preparing a Presidential run. So is there anything he can’t do? Well, we’re about to find out.

Called out by a Twitter follower (one out of his 1.2 million) named TwitWit on the role of government in citizenry nutrition and food stamps, Booker got into a verbal back-and-forth that led to him asking a simple question: “Let’s you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?”
The tweeter agreed and, since then, attention has been building towards the challenge as Mayor Cory Booker affirms to followers that he’s ready to do this to prove a point. TwitWit identified herself as a 39-year-old woman from North Carolina to the Associated Press but has chosen to remain anonymous due to threats from users over her views on food stamps. For this reason, the tweets between the Mayor and the user have been deleted.
In New Jersey, the average monthly benefit of food stamps (NJ Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program, or NJ SNAP for brevity) is around $133.26 as of the last fiscal year. If you do some simple division, that’s $33.32 a week. Damn.

According to the Mayor, the challenge will begin after Thanksgiving – he has confirmed the start date as December 4th and to end on December 11th. He’s in the process of drawing up the rules and guidelines to how it’s going to work (from now on, call it the #SNAPChallenge) and it may go longer than a week if need be:

Bare in mind that it will be video-recorded – the Mayor has always been a fan of broadcasting his activities, just like when he lost weight and kept followers in the loop on Facebook and Twitter. If this is political transparency in the Digital Era, well, alright then.

The challenge will be rigidly organized in order to show citizens skeptical of the food stamp program that the raw safety net is a necessity for many of those barely eking it. If that’s the case, let the challenge begin.

Andrew Cuomo: New Yorkers Will No Longer Need Fingers To Get Food Stamps

Good news for the nutritionally challenged: you’ll soon no longer need fingers to get food stamps.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the wheels are in motion to do away with a policy that requires food stamp recipients to submit their fingerprints to the government. The policy is considered by many to be offensive because it seems to imply that poor people are criminals.

Aside from sparing people the degradation of having to submit their fingerprints to apply for food stamps, ending the policy, Cuomo says, will remove a barrier that often prevents people from applying for the program.

According to the governor’s office, one in six New York children live
in homes without enough food. However, 30 percent of New Yorkers
eligible for food stamps — over 1.4 million people — don’t receive
them. Cuomo says this leaves more than $1 billion in unclaimed federal
funds designated for the food stamp program.

“There is never an
excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry,” Cuomo says
in a statement. “For too long, requiring finger imaging from those
eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to
participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food
off the table for those in need. By removing this barrier, additional
New Yorkers in need will be able to access the benefits they deserve
without having to submit to this unneeded and burdensome requirement.”

is an interesting way to describe government assistance, but it’s not
surprising coming from a guy who in his State of the State address
actually vowed to get more people on food stamps.

Cuomo says that by getting more people on food stamps will help boost the economy. His logic is as follows:

“According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $5
in new food stamp benefits can generate $9 in total community spending,
and every additional dollar’s worth of food stamp benefits generates 17
to 47 cents of new spending on food. By increasing access to food
stamps, eliminating the finger imaging requirement will benefit families
as well as the state and local economies.”

Cuomo has directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
to submit new regulations that ditch the fingerprint requirement. The
proposed regulations are getting filed today and will be open for 45
days to a public comment period before they’re finalized.


Why Is Mario Batali on Food Stamps?

Here’s a publicity stunt we can get behind: Mario Batali and his family are eating for a week on a food stamp budget–$31 a person, for the entire week. Batali is protesting budget cuts to SNAP pending in Congress.

Batali is on the board of the Food Bank for New York City, which suggested celebrity chefs take the challenge May 11 though 17. Here’s how it has gone so far:

“Rice and beans is in my lunch every day,” Batali said. “We got a bag of mini gala apples for $3. We bought a pork shoulder roast for $8 and got two and a half meals out of it. I got a whole chicken for $5, but it was spoiled so I had to return it and got a $7 chicken instead. They were out of $5 chickens.”

Go here to tell Congress to protect food stamps, instead of slashing and restructuring the food stamp program, the single biggest source of food for New Yorkers who rely on soup kitchens and food pantries.

OC Register via Eater


New Study Finds Food Stamps Help Reduce Poverty

Finally, there’s some good news about food stamps that doesn’t have to do with fraud or Octomoms. A new study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the food-stamp program (SNAP) reduced the poverty rate by 8 percent in 2009.

The Times reports that the recession coincided with an increase in participation in the food-stamp program: Enrollment went up by 45 percent from January 2009 to January 2012. But this year, this increase has lessened slightly, a change that could indicate that the economic recovery was affecting families living below the poverty line, according to Stacy Dean, a researcher of the food-stamp program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who was quoted in the Times article. Meanwhile, food stamps are turning out to be useful for more than just feeding families. The Rose Supper Club in Montgomery, Alabama, has started charging a reduced cover of $5 to people who present a food-stamp card at the door, The Daily Caller reports. Fox News has picked up the story — and things were starting to look up publicity-wise for the government program.


Jesse Jackson Slams Newt Gingrich Over Food Stamps

And the food-stamp fracas continues!

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has just blasted Newt Gingrich for his comments that Barack Obama is a “food stamp” president, and has come out against the Republican presidential hopeful, telling Politico: “Food stamps (are the) lifeline for many Americans — they help farmers, they help the grocery industry, and mostly, they help people who are malnourished.”

But wait, there’s more!

“For him to disparage the food stamps is to not understand the 50 million in the country living in poverty. He is showing disdain for the poor,” Jackson said.

Now, in case you don’t remember how began the SNAP — Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — shitshow, Newt Gingrich told reporters in December that “you don’t get food stamps. … You get a credit card and the credit card can be used for anything. We’ve had people take their food-stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii.”

He also said that millionaires can get food stamps, which is totally untrue.

Then, he continued on with his anti-SNAP screed, telling reporters several days later that Obama is the “finest food-stamp president.”

Gingrich’s comments have come under fire not just from political opponents, but from media and economic analysts.

Many have reported that SNAP enrollment first grew during George W. Bush’s presidency, not Obama’s tenure. The Bush administration aggressively courted eligible Americans to seek benefits, CNBC reports. Experts say that SNAP has ballooned mainly because of the economy — not Obama.

The latest in the SNAP spat stems from Gingrich’s comments Monday night, when a Fox News reporter accused the candidate of belittling people with “racially charged remarks,” Politico notes.


USDA Shutters Hundreds of Outposts

The agency that helps farmers and ranchers — and basically just makes sure that the country’s food production goes smoothly and that Americans are fed — is shutting down hundreds of regional offices to save money, the Associated Press reports.

The closures will save the agency $150 million, the AP notes — affecting at least 46 states and Washington.

Other cost-cutting measures for the agency — which has a $145 billion budget — announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday include finding cheaper cell phone plans for USDA staffers.

A lot of the changes will greatly impact the agency’s research arm: USDA scientists have typically done things like try to figure out how to make Alaskan wasteland arable, or how to best irrigate parched deserts. The Obama administration said earlier this year that it wants to shave at least $42 million from the USDA’s ag research, the AP writes.

The USDA also organizes aid for the poor, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.


Food Stamp Spending Surges at City Greenmarkets

More and more food stamps are getting spent at the city’s farmers’ markets — and on healthy items such as fresh produce — according to an exclusive report by NY1.

The City Council says that Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card transactions at Greenmarkets shot up 23 percent in 2011, Rebecca Spitz reports.

The overwhelming majority — 75 percent — of the $600,000 in federal food-stamp money spent at these markets purchased fruits and veggies.

Twenty percent was used for dairy and eggs, NY1 notes, and only 5 percent was spent on baked goods.

Forty-three of the city’s 53 farmers’ markets accept EBT cards.

In recent months, food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — have come under intense scrutiny.

As the 2012 election nears, some candidates have even used SNAP as a talking point, wrongly accusing recipients of traveling to Hawaii with the benefits rather than buying food.


Cops: Food Stamps Traded for Blow and Cash

So you can’t use food stamps to go to Hawaii — but you might be able to feed your cocaine habit with them.

Cops in Lynn, Massachusetts — a Boston suburb — say eight people used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for coke and cash, according to The Boston Globe.

Police told reporters that four Lynn bodegas routinely overcharged on SNAP transactions — which work like debit cards.

So, customers would pay $100 in SNAP funds for food, but actually receive $50 in groceries and $50. Authorities say the scheme has gone on since at least 2009, according to the Globe.

Some of these convenience stores truly lived up to their names, even offering customers blow in exchange for food stamps.