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Mayor Cory Booker: 'Difficult' bakery visit during $33 food stamp challenge

Even heroes get hungry.

Cory Booker drew national headlines when he pulled a neighbor out of a fire and came to the aid of a pedestrian struck by a car, but the charismatic Newark mayor had to dig into his heroic strength to battle the “hunger pains” that felled him halfway through a week long food stamp challenge.

Booker promised to live on the monetary equivalent of food stamps for one week – about $33 for a single individual living in New Jersey – after challenging a Twitter user to do the same.

He told TODAY’s Erica Hill that he hopes the contest will raise awareness about the struggles endured by people living on public assistance, and will have a lasting impact.

"If it becomes a distant memory then nothing's changed," he said. "So hopefully, things like this can help expand our consciousness and motivate us to act on a more consistent basis.”

Under the contest rules, Booker cannot eat food already in his home, nor can he accept outside meals like those at various events he attends for work. Booker reached his first low point of the challenge on Day Three during a late afternoon meeting at a local bakery.


Booker, a prolific user of social media, has been posting Twitter updates on the challenge.

“To put it simply, this was difficult and perhaps the greatest test of my resolve yet,” Booker later wrote on his LinkedIn page. He also is chronicling the experience on a video blog.

Booker, a vegetarian, began the contest last Tuesday, Dec. 4, with a trip to the store. He then tweeted a picture of his grocery bill, which included more than a dozen canned items. He also bought seven sweet potatoes and various bags of vegetables and two apples, “which I am savoring,” he told Hill.

@CoryBooker / Twitter

Booker spent $29.78 at the grocery store at the start of his challenge.

The idea behind the challenge started after Booker got into an online Twitter exchange with a woman who questioned whether schools should be responsible for ensuring that students receive proper nutrition.

“Nutrition is not a responsibility of the government,” tweeted @MWadeNC, who goes by “TwitWit” on the site.

That prompted Booker to say that the responsibility is a shared one:  “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 North Carolina woman Booker challenged has since protected her tweets because of threats she received over the exchange, she told the AP.

Booker said he was surprised to see how many Twitter followers had presumed that people on food stamps don’t have jobs or are lazy, when often “these are hardworking families who care about their kids, who play by the rules, who often work harder than other Americans.”

Booker’s challenge runs through Dec. 11. You can follow him on Twitter here.



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