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Cory Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge: Actual Food Stamp Users Weigh In

Huffington Post – by Alexander Eichler

Newark mayor Cory Booker is living on food stamps this week, spending less than $5 a day on his meals. Some critics have suggested that a week isn’t enough time to really understand what it is like to rely on modest government assistance to make ends meet, as more than 42 million Americans are doing right now..

We asked HuffPost readers with some experience with food stamps what they would tell Booker if they could.

Jennifer Waldron of Louisiana wrote: “I get the full amount of food stamps for my state and they are usually gone in two weeks. That’s with me eating beans and rice twice a week. It is nowhere near enough for those of us with very low incomes.”

A reader from Mississippi, who asked that we not print her name, had this to say:

I am a Mississippi resident who receives food stamps, roughly $367 per month (less than $100 per week) for myself and my 4 year old daughter. I can live off food stamps for a week easily enough — it’s making them last through the rest of the month that’s difficult. It’s almost impossible to buy healthy foods — fresh vegetables and fresh fruit — on a food stamps budget. I try to do it, but eventually I end up getting canned vegetables that aren’t as good for us anyway. Canned peas aren’t as healthy as fresh spinach or kale. Meats like beef and chicken are hard to come by. If I buy a lot of meats or fresh foods, I usually run out of stamps about 2.5 – 3 weeks in. It’s why Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, is also one of the most obese. People here cannot afford to buy and eat healthy food, especially people dependent on food stamps. Ending obesity needs to start with ending hunger and poverty. It sounds ironic, but it’s true.The stigma attached to receiving food stamps in the ultra-conservative south is awful. People think the only people who get food stamps are lazy welfare queens, but that’s simply not true. I have a bachelor’s degree and a law degree, and yet I need food stamps to survive. I’m working a part-time job because I can’t find a good legal job in this economy and cannot afford to relocate right now. The University of Mississippi recently started a Food Bank for students who are going hungry but are ineligible for food stamps. These are college students working hard to better themselves. I am grateful for the food stamps I receive each month — were it not for them, I wouldn’t have enough money for myself or my daughter to eat after paying the rest of the bills. But it is not easy to stretch my food stamps from month to month and meet all the requirements for continued eligibility. No one stays on food stamps because they like it. They stay on food stamps because they need them to survive. End of story.


Have you ever been on food stamps? Tell us your story. Send an e-mail

A reader from Kentucky wrote in to tell us:

I feel there is a fairly large difference between “living on food stamps” and surviving off food stamps. It would be comforting to have the fore-knowledge, as is the case with Mr. Booker, that I would be relegated to only using food stamps for one week with the understanding that I would return to a life of relative ease and the money needed to provide for me and my family. It is vastly different to know and understand that the funds could easily be stripped away at will by the powers that be; further, that your very survival depends on it month after weary month to keep making it to the next year. Additionally, there is the emotional and mental burden of realizing that the prospect of a better life does not likely lay ahead.It is also highly probable that, unless or until a living wage is initiated, corporations return jobs to America, and the root causes of poverty are addressed and redressed, this way of life will be passed on in its seemingly never-ending cycle to your children as well. It was my swaddling cloth and it is wound tightly into the fabric of my life and my children’s lives now, just as it is with most food stamp recipients. As a long-time citizen of poverty, the whole event smacks of self-promotion on a political level, although I do not wish to take away anything Mr. Booker may be trying to accomplish. A few practical pointers — Target does not accept food stamps, so prepare to be embarrassed at checkout if you shop for any food there. Most people do not sell food stamps for drugs or otherwise, as they only fetch half-price at best. Ramen noodles are hot, cheap, and make you feel full. No hot deli foods for you! And don’t be surprised if you get cursed or lectured along the way.


And a reader from West Virginia told us:

Although I applaud the Mayor’s efforts, a week is almost laughable. I would love to see him do it for an entire year and get a dose of reality.I live on $882 a month in Social Security Disability and currently $44 a month in SNAP benefits which comes out to about $1.41 a day based on a 31-day month. His less than $5 a day is far from my reality but then I live in West Virginia as opposed to New Jersey.

Being diabetic I try to maintain a healthy eating style but it is a near impossibility on that amount which will cover about a week’s worth of groceries. I know what it is like for myself as a single male to try and get by on that little amount every month. I can just imagine what it is like for a family with children.


Mayor Booker is live-tweeting his experience this week using the hashtag#SNAPChallenge.

Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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9 Responses to Cory Booker’s Food Stamp Challenge: Actual Food Stamp Users Weigh In

  1. Ben says:

    Here is my take on food stamps or EBT as it’s known here.We get no government assistance.NONE.If we did get “food stamps” it would go a long way to helping us become more productive members of society.Right now we struggle to pay something on our bills.If it wasn’t a requirement for our work,I wouldn’t be typing this.These programs would work if it wasn’t for so many dishonest people taxing the system.

    • diggerdan says:

      Well good for you Ben. not every body has a job and not everybody ony stamps are dishonest. In fact most are realy not makeing it even when they might be working a job. Most jobs around where I am fron the average hourly wage is $8.00 – $8.50 per hour and it is damn hard to find a place to rent for less than $600. a month. Ya ever try feeding and clothing a family at that wage? Oh yea, I know what you are sayin` though `cause I have seen some people that were useing stamps and then got in a Hummer and they also live in their own house in a new classy section of town, so I do know what you are saying but for the most part the ones that are on stamps are needy.

  2. katz says:

    This really makes me mad. These people are getting way more money for food stamps than I am, and I am paying all these taxes, and always going broke bc I am not getting anything from the state.
    Not only that, don’t give me that garbage about not having proper healthy food, when you can get off your butt and grow a garden, go to a food auction, start canning food, find local farmers and trade them for food, or find some way to get off that couch and get some decent food in the house. It’s cheaper to eat well, and you don’t have to eat meat all the time. Lazy people sit around buying packaged poison food, and whinging about how they are forced to eat those Cheetos. Get up and do something for yourself.

    • Ben says:

      I understand what you mean.Some people aren’t physically capable or their residence isn’t conducive to a garden.I grew up gardening and working on a farm.If someone has a job they don’t have time for a garden.Then there comes the knowledge.It’s not as simple as planting a seed or sapling and then watering.

      If taxes is a concern for you,then try relocating to an area where taxes are less or non existent.

      A lot of the stuff you list are rare things such as food auctions.It’s not as simple or cut and dry as you would like it to be.

      I do agree there are lazy worthless people that need to get off their asses and do something with themselves.

    • Angel-NYC says:

      Spoken as someone who thinks everyone has access to enough earth to plant garden or outdoor space to set a flower-pot, and an equipped kitchen with counters, work space, and storage. Must be nice. You’re lucky. Take advantage of it and don’t look down your nose at those who don’t happen to live in a place that allows them the luxury of space that you happen to enjoy. As for “find a local farmer”… the closest thing we have in the City, is the Farmers Market (which is all the trend). As an example, when in season, a pint of strawberries was $8 while at the grocery store I could get them for $1.99. These Farmers Don’t Barter. In short, you don’t know what the Heck you’re talking about! “Judge Not…” By the way, I pay taxes to the Feds, NYS, And TX and I don’t get Jack from any of them, either. I may be broke, not have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but at least I don’t begrudge those worse off than I am.

  3. # 1 NWO Hatr says:

    Speaking from personal experience, I was homeless and living in a park back in the mid-nineties. It was easy to get on GR (general relief) if you were homeless, and most of us fell into two categories. The pot smokers would usually only sell enough of their food stamps (at half of face value) to buy cigarettes and cheap dirt weed.
    The tweakers, on the other hand, would cluck ALL their food stamps to buy meth, and eat exclusively at the church dinners in the area to survive.

    Not the sharpest tools in the shed.

  4. SittinginAlbany says:

    I never, ever, thought we’d be on food stamps. This is the second time since 2010 we have had to use them. The first instance was briefly in 2010 when my husband reluctantly agreed to apply after he could not find work for 6 months. We were only on them for a few months, maybe 2 or 3. This time, well, he was fired January 2012 and has not been able to get a job and we have had to use them to feed us and our autistic son. We do not buy luxury meats. Cheap chicken that lasts 2-3 meals. I will only buy 2 portions of chicken and we eat vegetarian the rest of the time. We drink mainly water or coffee or tea and our son gets the majority of the juice. I’ve had people say to us we are lazy from my family. It’s not fun to be the butt of jokes. Being over 40 and finding yourself a victim of ageism for job (couched in “being overqualified”) plus needing to feed your family doesn’t make anyone feel proud.

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