Cory Booker, the tweeting, blogging, hero-mayor of Newark, NJ is once again using a mix of his celebrity and social media to raise awareness for an important issue in his community. After an exchange with a Twitter follower over whether or not nutrition is the government’s responsibility, Booker challenged the woman to join him in taking part in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge. Starting this past Tuesday, Booker began his mission to go one week living only off of the groceries he purchased for $29.78, the average amount that a single person in Newark, NJ would receive.
Booker has received both praise and criticism for the challenge – some applauding him for his dedication to his community and some calling it a publicity stunt and saying a week is not enough time considering that most SNAP recipients face the hardest times at the end of the month, when monthly allowances have run out.
Booker, now in day 4 of the challenge, has been documenting his daily meals and insights on Twitter and his LinkedIn blog. He’s already felt hunger pains and caffeine withdrawal, and questioned whether he bought the right items to eat healthy, nutritious and filling meals for 7 days. Many current and former SNAP recipients have been flocking to the comments section on both his blog and other mainstream media sites to offer their recipes, tips for stretching your SNAP budget and their firsthand accounts on the need for reform.
Booker’s participation in the challenge, along with other community celebrities including Michael Strahan, raises an interesting question in regards to social issues. Can celebrity and social media change the way people view SNAP? Can the findings of Booker and others participating impact reform in the program to include access to more nutritional offerings, as well as higher stipends and stipends that allow for items such as soap, toilet paper and other necessities that those on SNAP often can’t afford?
Another element of the challenge is the debunking of myths and stereotypes of those who use SNAP. Booker has been vocal in calling out his “Twitter haters” and setting the record straight. Among the stereotypes he challenges are that SNAP recipients are lazy and do not work. He points out that many actually work more than one job and that many military families rely on SNAP.
As the challenge continues to unfold and garner more participation from community leaders as well as more coverage by the media, it will be interesting to see whether the efforts actually bring about change, either in the form of program improvements or public perception.
What do you think of the SNAP Challenge? Let us know in the comments section or tweet us with the hashtag #SNAPchallenge.