Cory Booker, the mayor of the city of Newark, and one of his Twitter followers are to try to live on food stamps for a week. The idea surfaced during a Twitter exchange between Booker and his follower, TwitWit, with the handle @MWadeNC, about the government’s role in funding school breakfasts and lunch programs.
To TwitWit’s question of “why is there a family today that is ‘too poor to afford breakfast’? are they not already receiving food stamps?”, Booker wrote back “Lets 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?” In New Jersey, the average food stamp benefit was $133.26 per person in 2011.
TwitWit is a self-described “Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR), fighting against any and all forms of socialism/communism.. Army Veteran, Army Daughter, Army Wife” and said yes to the challenge.
Booker’s office is in the process of figuring out “the rules” for the challenge so that, as he told reporters, it will not be a “gimmick or a stunt.” TwitWit has said she wants to know the “ground rules” before participating and has indicated that she is “upset she has not been included in the research process.”
It remains to be seen exactly how the “food stamp challenge” will occur. Booker has reason to get the details in place first. In his six years as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city whose name has become synonymous with urban woes from gang violence to poverty, Booker has attained a national profile. He has sought to bring jobs and businesses back to Newark, reduce crime, combat corruption and increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.
Here are ten reasons that Booker is a candidate for superhero status.
1) He gives his cell phone number to people who indicate they’re serious about finding a job.
2) He went on a 10-day-hunger strike in 1998 to draw attention to open-air drug dealing; Booker first stayed in a tent and then in a motor home near drug dealing areas in Newark.
3) He lives where his constituents do. From 1998-2006, Booker lived in Brick Towers, a housing complex in the city’s tough Central Ward. Afterwards, he moved into the top story of a three-floor rental in an area of empty lots, boarded-up houses and drug and gang activity.
4) He shoveled the driveway of an elderly Newark resident and then ran about the city to help shovel out more houses in 2010.
5) Earlier this year, he risked his own life to enter a burning building and carry a woman out of there to safety.
6) He opened his own house to those who had no power or heat after Hurricane Sandy struck in late October.
7) He has (he says) precisely two addictions, books and coffee.
8 ) He has reduced his own salary twice since becoming Newark’s mayor.
9) He’s a vegetarian for ethical and environmental reasons.
10) In 2009, he turned down an offer from President Barack Obama to become the head of the new White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy, saying that he had a commitment to Newark.
Detractors have accused Booker of being more social media showman than something more substantial. But it can’t be denied that Booker has drawn plenty of attention to Newark and done more than his share of good in ways large and small along the way. What more would you expect from a superhero?
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