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Newark Mayor Booker Completes His Food Stamp Challenge

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (file / credit: Mayor's Office)

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (file / credit: Mayor’s Office)

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Newark Mayor Cory Booker has completed his challenge to live on food stamps for a week.

Booker concluded the Food Stamp challenge at midnight Tuesday morning. He said it was difficult to live on about $4 a day worth of food and give up caffeine for a week.

Booker said he accomplished his goal of starting a national conversation about food stamps.

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.

The woman also spent a week on food stamps, but not during the same time as Booker.

Booker said Tuesday that he accomplished his goal of greater awareness and whether the woman took on the challenge was “not as important.”

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

During the challenge, Booker said he did not eat much the first day. He forgot to check his travel schedule and couldn’t access his just-under-$30 in food purchases for the week, a few bucks under the maximum he could spend.

He also forgot to buy products with caffeine, and thus, went without coffee or caffeinated soda throughout the challenge.

The mayor said he quickly learned one must plan meals really carefully on a limited budget.

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.

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

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