How Far Could You Stretch A Food Stamp Budget? [Reader Forum]

Colorlines readers advise Mayor Cory Booker how to eat on a food stamp budget.

By Nia King Dec 10, 2012

In last week’s reader forum we discussed Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker’s "Food Stamp Challenge," an experiment in which he tries to live off a food stamp budget for a week. It did not go well. Colorlines readers had a number of reactions to Booker’s food stamp stunt, and a wealth of advice on how to make the money last!

International Journal of Radical Critique:

"Food stamps challenge"- what an insult!

Dyane Windshadow:

Actually, I think it’s a good idea for politicians to live off of food stamps for one week, or even one month! It gives them new insight into the problems of people who HAVE to use food stamps. And they don’t cover what they used to, either! There ISN’T a cost of living increase for food stamps – when the price of food goes up, you STILL get the same amount of money.

Yvonne Bridges:

You gotta know how to rock the low budget. When I had my first apartment I was damn near poor. Buy rice, beans, whole chickens, sugar and tea bags or Koolaid. Eggs, flour, milk – you can figure out how to make ALL KINDS of stuff with those 3! Eat for a whole week on less than $20. Takes experience….. 🙂

Mary A. Rabon:

Mayor Cory Booker, you ROCK! This is a fantastic way to shine some light on an ever-growing problem in our country, as well as why cutting these programs will only increase our homeless population.

Kay Tee:

Wish he would have taken suggestions on what to buy! He bought all the wrong things 🙁 to last him for a week. Reading his challenge makes me thankful my Grandma and Mother taught me how to REALLY cook – and make a meal stretch. Hang in there Mayor!!!

Rebekka Rymanowski

Don’t buy canned dry beans, soak, then cook & eat. Takes longer, but you get more for your buck. Cory, you’re a brave man to step into another person’s shoes.. good for you!

Toro Castaño:

$30 is pretty tight. I’m a grad student here in CA and I get by on $50/week and that includes a 14 oz can of ground coffee that last more than a week.

Marcia Sandifer:

3-1lbs bags of beans, 2 -1lbs bags of brown rice, 8oz of plain yogurt, frozen 5-bags of frozen fruits & veggies for less than $2 per bag, a big bag of fresh greens…they usually less than $2 for a giant stuffed bag, 4 cans of sale tuna, and a canister of store brand oatmeal, and 4 bananas. Bananas are the cheapest fruit in produce at $.69 a pound. They used to be $.19 cents per lbs. Water comes out of the faucet, boil it if you want it cleaner. A small box of store brand Tea bags with surplus. Healthy and it will last a week with portion control.

Carol YesJesuslvsmetoo Rigsbee:

Now he can see how the ‘poor’ live daily.

Simon Knaphus:

I love that he’s doing this, but I wish he would have gone through the application process (and used an EBT card). Eating on $30/week is one thing. It’s another thing to eat on $30/week when you have had to grovel, be judged, wait all day in line, and deal with bureaucrats who know very little about the system and treat applicants like human trash.

Jackie Meeks:

Bravo, Mayor Booker! I hope he will be able to share what he learns with other political leaders and help them understand that many people live on very little on a day-to-day basis. Maybe they’ll realize that pulling yourself up by your bootstraps doesn’t help much when you don’t have much to eat.

Karen Mahtin:

But seriously, though, the guy needs to cook from scratch.

Poincianna Martin:

@ Karen Mahtin, Cook on a $1.40 a day…that all he’s able to live on..

Our own Jorge Rivas:

These are all fantastic ideas but the poor man is now stuck with 18 cans of canned food. So what can he do now to make it last?

Adri Adri:


Vonn New:

He should try again another time and take the advice on this thread about buying dried beans, brown rice, etc. Cooking from scratch doesn’t need to be that time consuming. Invest a little time to make a pot of rice and beans and you won’t have to cook for several days. Look for fresh fruits and veg in the bargain bin (bruised or blemished) at the grocery store. Even ugly produce is better than convenience food. Also, if you have to carry food with you to work, peanut butter is a good choice. Definitely agree with comments about tea bags. I would also invest in a bottle of hot sauce to make it taste good, but that’s just me.

Ginny Blasi:

And this is also part of the challenge. Not everyone who has to live on a SNAPs allowance has cooking skills. There’s more to this than just the food choices.

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