The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which was a bit more recognizable in its former incarnation food stamps, provides some food security and assistance to over 46 million people in the United States per month. Almost half of those 46 million people, 41%, live in working households and are not just sitting back waiting to receive a government handout. Without such assistance, those who are food insecure would essentially be starving. As much of a lifesaver as SNAP might be for those living on a fixed income, it just may not be enough.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker tried to bring awareness to the reality of living off SNAP, as well as the crucial importance of the program, with a stunt, of sorts. Mayor Booker went a week living on the monetary equivalent of a SNAP recipient (that would be about $33 a week, which is probably what most Mayors spend on a single AM stop at Starbucks) and blogged like crazy about how difficult it is to live within your means, especially when your means are so meager. Mayor Booker budgeted well, with a full vegetarian diet of canned beans and sweet potatoes, but a few days into, he was sufficiently tired of the lack of variety, and concerned about his dwindling food supplies for the remainder of the week. Booker wrote:
As my food supply dwindles, I am keenly aware that millions of Americans face food insecurity and hunger on a daily basis. I am deeply concerned, and believe our nation needs to be more attentive and engaged. The SNAP program is at great risk for budget cuts as Washington pares federal spending to avert a year-end fiscal crisis. These cuts to SNAP funding could mean millions of more Americans – families with children, families with elderly and veterans – will live with less food, less options, and less hope.
What is your feeling on awareness raising efforts like these? Do you think Mayor Booker was adding to the conversation or just adding to his public profile? How can we improve the SNAP program to encourage healthier options and more food security, while keeping that investment in the community?