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Newark Mayor Booker Prepares For Week On Food Stamps

Cory Booker (credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Bing)

Cory Booker (credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Bing)

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker’s week on food stamps will begin Tuesday, and he has prepared for the challenge with a grocery purchase of $27.98.

The popular mayor, who is known for his active use of Twitter, agreed to live on the monetary equivalent of food stamps for a week when he was given the challenge by one of his Twitter followers last month.

Booker, who is vegetarian, will be limited to $1.40 for each meal for the duration of the challenge.

He and one of his Twitter followers each plan to live for a week on the monetary equivalent of food stamps or less.

The mayor’s week starts Tuesday. The woman’s began Sunday.

Booker tweeted a picture of a receipt of the purchases he made Saturday at a Pathmark store in neighboring Irvington. The vegetarian mayor’s grocery list included pink and black beans, corn and red delicious apples.

Booker declined requests Monday to be interviewed. He is using social media to provide updates.

Meanwhile, the woman who is participating in the challenge with Booker, who uses the Twitter handle @MWadeNC and goes by the name TwitWit, spoke to the Associated Press over the weekend on condition of anonymity because she says she has received threats.

She said she is upset that Booker didn’t consult with her before picking the dates. She said Booker sent her a tweet this week saying his staff would be in touch, but she has heard nothing since.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be challenged and just find out from the Internet when I’m supposed to take part,” she said in a telephone interview. “I would have appreciated the consideration that I have a life as well.”

Nevertheless, she said she will participate in the challenge for at least a week, possibly two.

The average monthly food stamp benefit was $133.26 per person in New Jersey in fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As mayor, Booker makes about 100 times that amount, $13,400 a month.

Politicians and community leaders around the country have taken on similar challenges in recent years to highlight the difficulty of relying solely on government aid for nutrition.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady lived on food stamps for a week earlier this year, and the mayors of Las Vegas and Phoenix, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the former governor of Oregon all did so within the past few years.

Most participated in the “Food Stamp Challenge,” a program from the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center that gives out tools to help organizations and individuals live on a food stamp budget, typically for a week. It even developed a how-to guide for members of Congress, which includes testimonials from eight politicians.

Celebrity chef Mario Batali and his family also did the challenge earlier this year. An AmeriCorps member serving as the community service coordinator at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut challenged her campus to try it for a week.

Booker, a prolific Twitter user who has 1.2 million followers, has said he wants the public to participate and on Thursday said he will soon announce a celebrity who will also take part.

Would you try living on food stamps for a week? Leave your comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)