Last month the USDA reported a record number of Americans are enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) formerly referred to as food stamps. Over 47 million people rely on SNAP to buy groceries with an average of $133.42 each month. This number translates to roughly 15 percent of all Americans, or 1 out of every 7 people.
The record level of SNAP enrollment should remove the stigma often associated with food stamp recipients, but perhaps it’s just too soon for most Americans to identify with their neighbors struggling to make ends meet.
Have you ever eaten on less than $5 a day? Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., is trying to this week. Because he has never had to watch his food bill so closely, he has challenged himself and others to spend less than $30 on food for the entire week, the approximate equivalent of SNAP funds per person. Last month a Twitter exchange led him to investigate what kind of parameters this type of challenge requires.
More so than just a fun game or a stab at personal austerity measures, Mayor Booker hopes to increase compassion and tolerance for the growing numbers of Americans who are challenged at the grocery store every week. Posting a photo of his grocery receipt on Tuesday, we can glimpse at the Mayor’s painstaking attempt at rationing nutritious food all week.
One of the biggest criticisms against SNAP is the allowance to purchase candy, soda, potato chips and other non-nutritious and calorie-laden items that one could argue counteracts a nutritious lifestyle. But the mayor kept his shopping list simplified to mostly beans, apples and fresh corn.
How would you spend your $30 each week, and do you think you could maintain a healthy diet?