Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is trying to eat for a week on just under $30, which is what the average recipient of food stamps in his town gets as a budget. He’s not doing too well – experiencing between-meals hunger and caffeine withdrawal.
Here’s what he bought with his $30:
Anyone who has ever been on food stamps, or an otherwise tight budget, can tell you where he went wrong: too many foods that are luxuries at that income level and too many brand-name items.
Where are the boxes of cheap mac-n-cheese, tins of store-brand baked beans and the bag of white long-grain rice or bag of the cheapest potatoes available on the shelf? Where’s the cheap block of cheese and the milk, along with some corn starch – combined into a sauce to make a little flavor for that rice or potato? Where’s the peanut butter, grape jelly and cheap store-brand white bread? Dude, I can feed a family of five on a budget of $7 a day that way – I know, because I’ve done it. I’m grateful every day that I no longer have to.
Look, Mayor – an apple is a luxury when you’re poor. You get one as a treat, and only in the second week if you somehow manage to have some food left over at the end of the first. Salad is right out. The name of the game is carbs – they fill you up and give you enough energy to get you through the hard working day – not sensible nutrition. You can worry about vitamins and stuff like that when you’re no longer worried about your kids going to bed hungry, if you tie down every stray expense, work like you’ll drop dead next month (for year after year) and if the Gods decide to grant you that nirvana one day.
Mayor Booker gets to go back to his usual food next week. He’ll be somewhat wiser about the plight of his poorest constituents, but will still only have a vague idea of what it is to be poor for a protracted period.