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Newark mayor to start food stamp challenge after Thanksgiving

Stephen Lam / REUTERS

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, pictured at an event in September, plans to survive solely on food stamps for a week.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker plans to live off food stamps for at least a week and challenged a Twitter user to do the same.

The charismatic, headline-grabbing mayor, considered a rising star in the Democratic party, planned to go over rules of the contest Tuesday with officials from the University of Bridgeport, which had already scheduled a similar challenge for December.

Under the school's food stamp challenge, individuals are only allowed to spend $35 for food and drink for an entire week. They cannot accept help from friends or family members, and they can't eat food they already have in their home, said Leslie Geary, a university spokeswoman.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, says a qualifying New Jersey resident would receive an average of $133.26 per month in assistance. 

Officially, Booker has not issued a statement about his dare. Online, the prolific Twitter user tweeted Tuesday that he’s “been challenged by thoughtful people 2 go longer. I will & after Thanksgiving start.”

In an online exchange that started Sunday, a Twitter user had questioned Booker on whether schools should be responsible for ensuring that their students receive proper nutrition.

“Nutrition is not a responsibility of the government,” tweeted @MWadeNC, who goes by “TwitWit” on the site. She later clarified in a tweet that parents, not the government, have the responsibility to make sure their kids go to school “nutritionally ready.”

That prompted Booker to say that the responsibility is a shared one. 

“Let 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?” he said.

TwitWit, a self-described “Army veteran, army daughter, army wife” and “Daughter of the American Revolution,” accepted, but said she had yet to hear back from the mayor as of Tuesday afternoon.

The exchange between the two sides stemmed from an earlier tweet from Booker, who had posted a quote from the Greek historian Plutarch.

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics,” he tweeted, prompting a response suggesting Booker was advocating a redistribution of wealth.

“We pay 4 HUGE back end govt programs: prisons, police, etc. If we invested in Schools, nutrition, etc we’d save $ & create wealth,” the mayor said.

And that’s when @MWadeNC chimed in.

The University of Bridgeport originally scheduled the “SNAP Food Challenge” for a week in November but the arrival of Hurricane Sandy postponed the program’s launch, Geary said. The mayor called the school’s community service director seeking rules, structure and a judge for his personal challenge. 

"Basically, two people had the same idea and at the same time, but she had already put the leg work into it and so he was seeking her help,” she said.

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